By Rep. Joe McDonald
The 2020 legislative session’s Feb. 11 start date seems to be sneaking up on us with so much attention these days fixated on impeachment hearings at the federal level.
While banter will continue regarding that sham, my focus is on continuing to represent the people of District 29A to the best of my ability by doing the state’s work. A great many challenges once again await us at the Capitol and, while this is not a budget year, fiscal issues no doubt will be prominent in the face of a $1.3 billion state surplus. Minnesota’s rainy-day fund now is full, with $2.359 billion on reserve to mitigate any future economic downturns.
Most people I talk with in our district want the surplus to be used for tax relief instead of fueling more government growth. That could include and combination of reducing income taxes, reducing/eliminating the tax on Social Security, repealing the estate tax, eliminating the provider tax on health care and beyond.
One quick point about reducing health care costs: Last session, the House majority effectively raised health care costs on Minnesotans by $900 million per year by choosing to extend the provider tax. The surplus is enough to fully repeal Democrats’ harmful health care tax hike and lower health care costs. For all the talk about reducing health care, this is a golden opportunity to put action behind those words.
This year’s capital investment bill to fund projects throughout the state will be another major fiscal issue this session. The largest bonding bills typically are drafted in even-numbered years such as this. While it is crucial to maintain our infrastructure – such as bonding proposals for Annandale (road work) and South Haven (a well project) – we also must be responsible with taxpayer funds. The House bonding chair has said she would like to borrow $3.5 billion, which is way out of line. The governor’s $2 billion proposal also would be the most expensive in state history and needs to come down.
The Minnesota Department of Human Services has been in the news a lot in recent months, for all the wrong reasons with waste, fraud, abuse and significant staff turmoil making headlines. This is the state’s largest agency and taxpayers deserve to know their tax dollars are being used responsibly. There should be consequences for the improper overpayments and violations of state contract laws. Expect proposals to be offered this session to reform DHS with the focus on increasing transparency and accountability and protecting taxpayers.
Extreme proposals to infringe on our Second Amendment rights also could be introduced this year by the House majority. The House majority voted to approve two highly controversial gun control bills last year. Our state already conducts background checks and their plan would eliminate due process and do more to make unintentional criminals out of friends and family than anything else. I strongly oppose these proposals. Thankfully, those bills were stopped along the way in 2019 and I will continue to defend our Second Amendment rights as long as I am in office.
This is just a sampling of issues we expect to take up this session. Look for more news as the legislative session gets underway and issues develop, including an overview of bills I will be authoring myself. Please stay in touch and pass along your thoughts, questions and concerns by calling me at (652) 296-4336 or by emailing email@example.com.