With the Passover/Easter break now behind us, lawmakers returned to St. Paul this week knowing only one month remains before the 2022 legislative session is required to end.
Some good news around the Capitol grounds as there are more signs of hustle and bustle, and life returning to normal as COVID fears recede. School tours are returning now that the building has been reopened to the public, and organizations such as the West Central Cattlemen’s Association are having their days at the Capitol. All of this is so good to see as it has been a long time coming.
HOUSE MAJORITY UNVIELS NEW BUDGET TARGETS
With a $9.3 billion budget surplus, the House majority has decided it wants to increase state government spending and grow our state’s budget. This week, it unveiled budget targets that would spend $7.4 billion of our projected windfall. The spending increase amounts to an additional 14% on government programs, meaning during this current two-year budget cycle the state’s budget would total $59 billion if the House Democrat plan was signed into law.
On the other end of the spectrum, the Minnesota Senate would use the majority of the surplus for tax relief.
Remember, this is not a budget year. Budgets for all state agencies were set last session. It’s also worth noting that the surplus does not have to be addressed this year, but would need legislative action in 2023, which is our next budget setting year.
NO PROGRESS ON LOCAL EMPLOYER TAX INCREASE
Local employers learned last month that they would be hit with a 15% or greater tax increase in order to begin to replenish Minnesota’s Unemployment Insurance (UI) trust fund. House Speaker Melissa Hortman has stated that lawmakers actually had until April 30 – the date the actual payments were due – to act.
We’re 9 days from the Speaker’s deadline, and the House majority continues to be silent on this issue.
For a number of reasons, this is troubling. Minnesota wastes $50,000 a day just in interest costs due to this inaction. If the trust fund is not repaid using available $9.3 billion state surplus or $1 billion federal COVID revenue, it will ultimately result in ten years of higher taxes on every Minnesota employer.
Senate Democrats and Republicans have already passed legislation that would solve the problem and eliminate this unneeded tax increase. Governor Walz, his administration, and House Republicans all support the measure. It’s time for the House Speaker and her majority caucus to do what’s right for Minnesota’s job providers and bring forward legislation that addresses this problem.
PUBLIC SAFETY BILLS DO NOT RECEIVE HEARING
As this was supposed to be the session of public safety, many of us were expecting common-sense bills that would hold criminals responsible for their actions and help recruit and retain peace officers to move forward. Unfortunately, numerous bills that would have done just that – authored by Republicans and Democrats – never received a hearing by the House majority party’s public safety committee chair.
This week House Republican leadership sent a letter to the chairman stressing that we stand ready to work to help pass real public safety solutions that will reduce the crime rate in our state. We also expressed our disappointment in his bill that gives money to violence-interrupters, grows the state government bureaucracy by tens of millions of dollars, and adds dozens of new full-time employees to a St. Paul office building.
KEEP IN TOUCH
As always I'm continuing to support constituent needs. Feel free to contact me anytime at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 651-296-7808.