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Legislative News and Views - Rep. Chris Swedzinski (R)

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Report from the House

Thursday, January 17, 2019

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Greetings from the Capitol, where committees started to get settled in and the subjects of health care costs and our state’s anti-business policies drew attention.

Before we get to those subjects, I want to thank Matt Tiffany and Carolyn Olson (pictured above) from the Minnesota Agriculture and Rural Leadership group for visiting my office this week. Both are District 16A constituents, with Carolyn from Cottonwood and Matt from Redwood Falls. It’s always a pleasure to discuss issues with people from our district, so feel free to reach out to my office by using the contact information in this email if you’d like to set up an appointment during the session.

In other news, the subject of high health care costs has been a major point of conversation in recent months. The good news there is $600 million in relief to be had without the Legislature lifting a finger, simply by allowing the state’s 2-percent sick tax to be retired as scheduled on Jan. 1, 2020. Disappointingly, Democrats are now talking about keeping that tax on the books, in some cases even calling the tax “essential.”

This 2-percent tax levied on most patient services in Minnesota, including things like baby deliveries, chemotherapy treatments, routine doctor visits, emergency room visits, and more. It is rare that our state taxes services, so it’s hard to accept that this was ever part of our tax policy. Continuing it should be out of the question, especially when we have a $1.5 billion state budget surplus.

But it doesn’t even need to be that complicated. Let’s just use common sense and acknowledge that you don’t lower health care costs by raising health care taxes. A press conference took place this week and House Republicans urged the new DFL House majority and Gov. Tim Walz to let the tax retire as planned and get going on delivering the reductions in health care costs seemingly everyone promised last fall.

I’ll stay on top of this and keep you posted as things develop. Another issue I am tracking is the state’s onerous regulations which caused tru Shrimp to build its first major shrimp facility in Madison, S.D., instead of in Luverne as previously planned.

As I noted in a recent press release, opportunities for economic development of this magnitude don’t come around often and now it appears the inability of the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency to successfully negotiate permits is causing us to miss out on a chance to provide southwestern Minnesota with a big-time boost.

This week a Senate hearing addressed some of the MPCA’s practices and we learned the agency was told years ago that methods it is using for testing water are flat-out obsolete, yet it has not advanced its procedures. The University of Minnesota conducted a study on this subject a full decade ago and in 2010 indicated to the MPCA that its specific conductance testing was outdated, negatively impacting agricultural production facilities in our state (tru Shrimp included). Since then, the MPCA has failed to embraced new technologies and testing methods so we can modernize our policies.

Now, because of the MPCA’s failings, Minnesota has fallen behind other states and we are missing out on major investments and good jobs in regions such as ours that could use some economic development.

It’s a disturbing situation and legislators have requested that the MPCA work with the governor’s office and the city of Luverne to develop solutions for this issue in the next 30 days. I will pass along more info as it becomes available.

Have a good weekend,