By Rep. Steve Green, R-Fosston
Significant differences in budget proposals offered by the House and Senate majorities and Gov. Tim Walz have made reaching an agreement difficult as the Legislature’s May 20 date for adjournment nears.
The main disagreement hinges on the fact House Democrats and Gov. Tim Walz want to raise our taxes by $12 billion over four years, while Republicans in the House and the Senate strongly oppose tax increases, especially with a $1 billion state surplus. The tax increases include raising the gas tax by 70 percent (20 cents per gallon) and extending a tax on health care despite Democrats promising to reduce health care costs.
These outrageous tax increases mark a noticeably different approach by House Democrats and the governor compared with what we accomplished with Republicans controlling the House the last four years, even with a Democrat in the governor’s office.
For instance, House Republicans made a historic investment in transportation without raising taxes a single penny. We did so largely by directing tax dollars already being paid on the purchases of auto parts toward roads and bridges.
Instead of building off that success, Democrats want to take money that is dedicated to roads and bridges and spend it elsewhere. The upshot is roughly half of the 20-cent gas tax increase Democrats propose would go toward replacing the money Democrats are taking away from roads and bridges. Also, the Democrats’ plan to raise the gas tax by 20 cents per gallon would hit outstate drivers more and be more costly to people with lower incomes.
On health care, reform House Republicans led to enactment in the last biennium helped reduce or hold flat individual market health insurance rates after years of double-digit increases that came with the implementation of Obamacare in Minnesota.
Instead of following that approach, Democrats want to end Minnesota’s nation-leading reinsurance program and replace it with a program that will help fewer people, cost more, and do nothing to prevent massive premium spikes. They also want to extend a health care provider tax that would cost Minnesotans more than $2 billion over the next four years, along with changing nursing home reimbursement rates resulting in a $68 million cut to those facilities.
The 2017 tax relief bill, championed by House Republicans, delivered $650 million in tax relief to Minnesota families in 2018-2019 and $790 million in 2020-2021. For instance, nearly 284,000 senior citizen tax filers received tax reductions; 72,000 of those no longer pay state income tax.
Instead of following that lead, Democrats propose raising taxes across all of their budget bills by $12 billion during the next four years … at a time the state has a $1 billion surplus.
The education budget House Republicans led to enactment in 2017 combined a 2-percent yearly increase to the per-pupil formula that was requested by our school districts with numerous reforms to provide Greater Minnesota districts with added flexibility in their budgets and in personnel decisions.
Instead of allowing those changes to continue taking root, Democrats want to dismantle new licensure opportunities, put Planned Parenthood activists in our children’s classrooms and increase the funding advantage metro schools already have over those of us in Greater Minnesota.
I could go on, but these are just some of the reasons it has been difficult to find areas of agreement with Democrats in St. Paul. For progress to come, Democrats must become willing to compromise on the aforementioned subjects and back off their extreme agenda that caters directly to the Twin Cities area.