ST. PAUL – State Rep. Chris Swedzinski, R-Ghent, said he is pleased most of the tax increases proposed by Gov. Tim Walz and the House majority were struck down in the process of setting a new two-year state budget.
A brief special session took place Friday and early Saturday after proposals to raise taxes by $12 billion caused budget talks to stall and no deal was in place when the Legislature’s May 20 date for adjournment arrived.
“That was never realistic to raise taxes by $12 billion at a time the state has a $1 billion surplus and it just took time for the House majority and the governor to acknowledge that fact,” Swedzinski said. “We were successful in getting them to drop most of their tax increases, including their push to raise the gas tax by 20 cents. The one major exception is they did extend a tax on health care at a cost of more than $2 billion to Minnesotans.”
Swedzinski also pointed to mental health grants for farmers and $8 million to help dairy farmers cover the costs of a federal Margin Protection Plan insurance program as successes of the session. The funding is directed toward smaller, family-type operations with fewer than 750 cows. An appropriation to provide mental health support for farmers was approved as well.
“We also spared nursing homes from the $68 million Democrats were looking to cut from them, which is a huge win for Greater Minnesota,” Swedzinski said. “And, after so much resistance, Democrats finally agreed to extend the reinsurance plan we successfully created a couple of years ago to help get a handle on insurance premiums on the individual market.”
Swedzinski successfully brought to passage a bill that will help the Minneota school district rectify a funding shortage on a construction project by covering sales taxes on materials. He also received approval for a bill allowing people to use night-vision equipment while hunting foxes and coyotes.
The special session was called by the governor after days of closed-door meetings, and a “tribunal” comprised of the governor, the House speaker and the Senate majority leader. Some conference committees did not adopt a single provision in a public setting, resulting in entire bills being decided behind closed doors. The largest budget bill was not publicly released until several hours after the special session had begun.
House Republicans also successfully negotiated changes that Swedzinski will enhance transparency next session, including a change to the House committee structure that will increase transparency and fix flaws in the structure Democrats implemented this year.
“People deserve to be able to follow along as decisions with significant impacts are made,” Swedzinski said. “This year was historically bad in terms of those key decisions being made in private and the changes we were successful in negotiating give hope that things will be better moving forward.”