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

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House news

Monday, April 15, 2019

Thanks to Soil and Water Conservation District representatives (above) and the Minnesota Corn Growers group (below) for making recent visits to my legislative office.

Dear Neighbor,

Greetings from St. Paul, where House Democrats have assembled the numerous omnibus finance bills to begin the process of setting the state’s next two-year budget. Those proposals have been the subject of committee meetings and we expect them to soon be brought to the floor for votes of the full House. The common thread among these omnibus bills is they spend too much and they tax too much. Here is the latest look at some budget subjects and more:

Dems seek $12 billion tax increase

House Democrats are looking to raise our taxes by $12 billion over the next four years. Everything from health care to gasoline (20 cents more per gallon) and other everyday goods and services would cost more at a time the state has a $1 billion surplus. Minnesotans already are overtaxed and many families and businesses alike simply can’t afford these increases to pay for more state spending.

Here are some specifics of the tax increases Democrats propose, totaling more than $12 billion over the next four years:

  • Tax bill (tax hikes only): $4,004,690,000
  • Transportation bill: $3,873,948,000
  • Provider tax: $2,550,277,000
  • Paid Family Leave: $2,074,755,000

HHS behemoth

The House majority has put forward a 1,000-page monstrosity of a Health and Human Services bill. It is believed to be the largest bill and state history, but what matters most is the bad stuff that is actually in the bill. It raises the cost of health care on all Minnesotans and also cuts funding for our nursing homes at a time the state has a $1 billion surplus. The bill also does not extend Minnesota's reinsurance program, which could cause premium rates to soar next year.

Hands-free driving bill approved

A bill (H.F. 50) prohibiting drivers from using hand-held cell phones received final approval from both bodies of the Legislature last week (107-19 vote in the House) and was enacted by the governor. The gist of the bill is it allows drivers to use phones and other devices as long as they are affixed to the vehicle and hands-free methods are used. Navigation apps still could be used as long as programming is performed outside the flow of traffic. Offenders would be charged a $50 fine, with escalators for repeat offenses that could surpass $200. The new law takes effect Aug. 1.

Child care fraud update

The Office of the Legislative Auditor recently conducted an investigation and found widespread fraud in a state child care program. The OLA issued a follow-up report last week and indicated program integrity controls at the Department of Human Services “are insufficient to effectively prevent, detect, and investigate fraud in Minnesota's Child Care Assistance Program.”

The OLA listed numerous issues that have compromised the program’s integrity. House Republicans already have put forward a package of provisions that would improve oversight and reporting with the child care program. While the majority has resisted conducting hearings on this subject, it’s time to crack down on this clear fraud, waste and abuse of our tax dollars. Inaction is unacceptable.

Minnesotas New Green Deal

House Democrats have introduced their version of Minnesota’s Green New Deal that would establish a 100-percent carbon-free standard by 2030, place a moratorium on the construction of fossil fuel facilities, electrify all sectors of the economy currently powered by fossil fuels and more.

As House Energy and Climate Finance and Policy Division Minority Lead, my take on this proposal is that it is over the top and the soaring energy costs it would bring would bankrupt ratepayers. This extreme and unrealistic legislation might be a dream for environmental special interest groups but it would be an absolute nightmare for Minnesotans and their energy bills.

Canby Theatre receives grant

The city of Canby is receiving a $10,000 grant to hire a qualified consultant to develop architectural drawings for the historic Canby Theatre. Congratulations to everyone involved in submitting a successful grant application to benefit this local treasure. I am proud to support the Canby Theatre so that future generations may continue to enjoy it as others have the past several decades.

The Canby Theatre is listed In the National Register of Historic Places. The funding it has been awarded is through a history grant from the Minnesota Legacy appropriations and the Arts and Culture Heritage Fund.