The fact so little has happened on the House floor this session is reason for concern on multiple levels.
Through the first 10 weeks of the session, the House provided final approval to only five bills and none of them were of great significance. That was the fewest bills approved at that point in a session since at least 1995 – the earliest records are available on the House website.
While it is typical for a session’s major bills to come through during the latter stages in May, this year is different. Some issues are too time-sensitive and just plain too important to wait months for action in the House. This includes legislation to correct tax problems for businesses and workers, provide funding for our law enforcement and help children who need to catch up in school after a year of distance learning. These should not be partisan issues and I suspect legislation to address them would receive broad support in the full House.
The House majority’s unwillingness to lift the state tax on forgiven Payment Protection Program loans from the federal government is doing a major disservice to Minnesota businesses. Minnesota is the only state in the upper Midwest that has yet to exempt forgiven PPP loan payments. Without approval of a bill, businesses could owe thousands of dollars or more in state income taxes simply for using the PPP funds as intended by the federal government.
The Senate already passed a PPP tax relief bill with a veto-proof majority on a 55-12 vote but things remain at a standstill in the House. We have heard all the excuses in the world from the majority about why, more than 10 weeks into the session, a bill to fix this problem has not been brought to the floor. None of the excuses are valid and there is no reason to delay, especially with the state running a $1.6 billion surplus and receiving billions more in recently approved federal relief.
By slow-rolling important legislation, the table is being set for the majority to cram the good stuff into more controversial, massive omnibus bills at the end of session. The majority caucus already has large fractures in it and, after their own bill to fund law enforcement imploded on the House floor, they don’t seem too excited to do much of anything right now. It is really sad this lack of leadership is standing in the way of bills that people support, need to be done and should be done now.
Gov. Walz released his revised budget proposal yesterday. It includes $670 million in tax hikes despite a $1.6 billion surplus and $2.5 billion coming to the state from the recently passed federal relief bill. The governor’s revised budget fails to fully exempt forgiven PPP loans from state taxes and includes tax hikes on both individual and corporate income taxes.
To repeat: Our state has a $1.6 billion surplus, overflowing reserve accounts, $2.5 billion more coming in federal relief and the governor still wants to raise taxes. Or, simply, the same governor who told people they could not work or caused to suffer reduced income in recent months now wants to take more of their money in taxes even though the state has far more money than it needs.
This is insulting to Minnesotans and once again it illustrates some people want to raise taxes regardless of our bottom line. Our focus should be helping Minnesota families and businesses get back on track, but all the governor’s plan would make the hill to climb even steeper.