By Rep. Joe McDonald
Democrats in St. Paul finished the 2013 legislative session by passing a historic tax increase, wasteful government spending and divisive social policy.
They have full control of the House, the Senate and the governor’s office and, with some fiscal restraint, could have balanced the budget without raising taxes. We have generated approximately $3 billion in more-than-expected revenue since just after Republicans and Gov. Mark Dayton reached a budget compromise in 2011. Minnesota’s business filings are up, with 60,827 new businesses filed in 2012. Unemployment is down and we are riding a streak of successive positive economic forecasts. Projections now call for an $856 million surplus in 2016-17.
Instead of riding that momentum toward full recovery from the Great Recession, the legislative majority passed a $2.1 billion tax increase to fund extra spending. This includes a new business-to-business tax that is all but certain to increase costs for consumers. They also raised the cigarette tax by $1.60 per pack and gave our top earners one of the highest income tax rates in the country.
A portion of this tax increase will be used to expand government, with roughly 1,300 new government jobs. I fully support helping people get back to work, but I believe it should be through economic freedom in the private sector. With each new job commanding $50,000 minimum in wages and benefits, that adds another $63 million annually to the base of state spending. We cannot afford this kind of government bloat.
A couple of other bills created controversy of different types late in the session. One passed to allow same-sex marriage. The other would unionize self employed, private in-home childcare providers and personal care assistants and make them employees of the state. That's sickening!
Passage of the childcare union bill was extremely disappointing on a number of fronts. For one, the initiative received very little support from anyone other than union heads and Democrats at the Capitol. A recent survey shows 86 percent of providers themselves oppose unionization. Parents oppose it as well because it will drive up the cost of day care.
At least new gun restrictions were abandoned after hundreds and hundreds of 2nd Amendment supporters made themselves heard loud and clear during committee hearings in St. Paul.
I am proud of the work we did the last biennium to set our state on a path toward a healthy economy. I am concerned legislation enacted this year could undo some of those improvements. Years of spending too much left us in a cycle of budget shortfalls. We righted the ship in 2011, it was the lowest spending increases in at least 50 years. I am concerned the tax-and-spend mentality Democrats brought to the Capitol this year could send us back off course.