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Legislative Update (3-27-19)

Wednesday, March 27, 2019
 
Dear Neighbor,

Yesterday, the Public Utilities Commission unanimously voted to deny the Gov. Tim Walz administration’s petition to reconsider the certificate of need for the Line 3 replacement pipeline.

This is the third vote the PUC has taken to uphold the certificate of need decision. Walz must now decide whether he will appeal and continue the state’s legal efforts to challenge the Line 3 replacement project.

The governor has been handed a golden opportunity to redeem himself after making the mistake of throwing this project back in court during his first month or so in office. It is time for him to put pride aside, stop siding with Twin Cities environmentalists and accept this unanimous decision put forward by his own commission so Line 3 replacement can move forward after more than four years of heavy scrutiny.

Many good jobs, millions of dollars in property tax revenue and improved environmental protection are all at stake. Dragging this issue back to the courts at this point would be nothing more than partisan gamesmanship and a waste of tax dollars.

Work will soon get serious on hammering out a new two-year budget for the state and House Democrats have now confirmed they will follow the governor’s proposal to raise the gas tax by 20 cents per gallon increase, along with bringing back a tax on health care.

While we are still awaiting the specific details of the overall House Democrat budget proposal revealed earlier this week, they look to be proposing even more all-funds tax increases than Gov. Walz, who has proposed a tax hike of around $3.3 billion when you look at the general fund, gas tax, and provider tax increases.

It should be noted these tax increases are on top of their plans to spend the state’s $1 billion surplus. Senate Republicans are scheduled to come out with their own budget proposal this week. I would expect that plan to be more respectful of taxpayers and have a more responsible overall spending total.

In other news, this week House Republicans unveiled a package of bills geared toward cracking down on fraud in Minnesota’s public programs. This comes on the heels of a report showing pervasive fraud within Minnesota’s Childcare Assistance Program.

To date, House Democrats have refused to hold hearings on the OLA report in the House, and have only recently brought in DHS to discuss fraud in general before the Early Childhood Committee.

On a final note, the House may yet this week consider final passage of a bill to provide flood relief for areas of our state that could experience damage this spring. The state’s contingency account to deal with disasters such as flooding has been depleted and a bill is being prepared to replenish the account. If the waters subside and those dollars are not needed this spring, they will remain in the contingency account to allow for a fast response when the next emergency arises.

-Steve

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