Good to meet with Art Advocacy Day visitors (above) and cooperative network representatives (below) during their recent vistits to the Capitol.
The House finally has made its way through the entire set of this year’s omnibus finance bills and Democrats have voted to approve funding a pay raise for legislators, cutting $68 million from nursing homes, raising $12 billion in tax increases across all their budget bills, raising the gas tax by 20 cents per gallon and increasing health care costs.
Recent articles have explained that Gov. Tim Walz’s own administration says taxes he and House Democrats are pushing would hit low- and middle-income families the hardest. The consequences would be rather harsh, especially here in Greater Minnesota.
House Democrats approved their Transportation bill (HF 1555) which increases the gas tax by 20 cents per gallon and also increases the vehicle registration tax, the metro sales tax, and the new-vehicle sales tax – a total of more than $4 billion in tax increases over four years.
This doesn’t have to be an either-or situation, where we either raise the gas tax or allow our roads and bridges to suffer. There are other avenues we can pursue to increase support for roads and bridges without resorting to raising the gas tax, which hits lower earners and people of Greater Minnesota the hardest.
The bill also transfers statutorily dedicated auto parts sales tax funds – $417 million in 2020-21 – into the general fund. This reverses the major investments House and Senate Republicans made during the last biennium to fund road and bridge infrastructure without a gas tax increase.
The approach we took last biennium led to a historic investment in transportation without putting an even heavier burden on people who can least afford it. We should be working to take that breakthrough and make it even better instead of going backward by raising the gas tax at a time we have a $1 billion surplus. Democrats want to eliminate common-sense reform and replace it with a 70-percent increase to our gas tax, making it one of the nation’s most expensive.
Democrats also approved their public safety omnibus bill (HF 2792) with a pair of controversial gun control bills that would expand background checks and allow court-ordered firearms seizures.
I do not support these proposals because they would do more to encumber law-abiding citizens who have a great appreciation for the Second Amendment than to actually stop criminals. Instead, we should be focusing more on mental health initiatives to provide the kinds of upstream resources that help people before they become susceptible to committing violent acts in the first place.
We also can do more to make sure our guns are secure and do not end up in the wrong hands. I have been working on legislation that would provide tax exemptions on purchases of gun safes to help provide incentive on that front but, unfortunately, the House majority has not been receptive.”
One of the measures places new burdens on gun owners and creates several new restrictive requirements, including background checks on the private transfer of firearms where fees would have to be paid even on transfers between friends and/or family. It also only allows one firearm per permit to purchase, which expires after 30 days, and imposes a requirement for private parties to keep records in perpetuity.
The other measure implements a so-called “red-flag” law by permitting the removal of a person’s firearms if a court grants an order for an extreme risk protection order. This could be done through an ex-parte process where the accused is not present to offer a counter to the accusation, raising due process concerns among lawmakers. Under the proposal, law enforcement would be responsible for delivering the order and executing the firearm seizure without the accused knowing an accusation has been made against them.
Democrats also approved their omnibus tax bill (HF 2125) as part of their plan to raise taxes on Minnesotans by over $12 billion during the next four years. The tax bill itself includes $3 billion in new increases over the next four years, resulting in increased consumer prices, reduced wages, and fewer job opportunities. A number of these tax increases disproportionately impact middle- and lower-income Minnesotans and burden businesses that will increase the cost of goods and services and hurt wage growth for Minnesota employees.
The good news in all of this is Senate Republicans have a majority in that body and have put forward a significantly different budget plan. That means many of the ill-advised House Democrat provisions likely will have to be scrapped in order for agreement to be reached on a new state budget before our deadline to adjourn arrives on May 20.
As they say, the situation is fluid. I’ll keep you posted as things shake out down the home stretch.