It’s omnibus bill season at the Capitol, which means House Democrats have begun parading through the floor bills that raise our taxes by billions of dollars at a time of vast state surplus.
The Democrats’ transportation bill I mentioned in my last email is expected to come to the floor today. It includes more than $1.5 billion in tax and fee hikes over the next four years, namely a gas tax increase ($363 million over four years) by linking Minnesota’s gas tax to the Highway Construction Cost Index. This would result in an automatic annual inflationary gas tax increase.
The Democrat omnibus bill to appropriate funds from the Legacy Amendment also came to the floor. It is pretty typical of Legacy bills in that it spends a lot of unchecked tax dollars and includes numerous policy changes that do not belong. For example, language regarding “celebrating cultural diversity” seems a bit vague and not entirely fitting with some Legacy funds that pay for things like drinking water supply projects, state trails, or habitat restorations.
The Legacy bill also continues the bad trend we have seen with our state purchasing more and more land, pulling it off the tax rolls, reducing revenue for local jurisdictions and driving up taxes elsewhere. And the bill continues doling taxpayer money to the Minnesota Arts Board without even knowing what projects out tax dollars are paying for are until they are complete. This has been problematic in the past and I hope history does not repeat itself.
As the Republican lead on this subject, I voted against the bill and hope it comes back to the House in better shape after a conference committee does its work to reconcile differences between the House and Senate versions.
In other news, a bill I authored allowing Minnesotans to decide whether a governor’s emergency powers warrant greater oversight and accountability was blocked by House Democrats on Wednesday from becoming available for a vote of the full body.
Specifically, upon enactment of my bill (H.F. 101), ballots for the 2022 general election would pose the question: “Shall the Minnesota Constitution be amended to limit the governor's emergency declaration to seven days prior to legislative approval?”
Current Minnesota statute allows the governor to maintain his executive order so long as the Legislature does not take action to end it. The public would be better served by taking the opposite approach, where legislative approval is required for a governor to extend emergency powers beyond an initial seven-day window. If the Legislature wasn’t in session at the time a governor invoked a peacetime emergency, he could call a special session for his executive powers to be extended for up to 30 days at a time, according to my bill.
The complete and total abuse Gov. Walz has exhibited by invoking his unilateral mandates for more than a full calendar year must be checked and my bill provides citizens with that opportunity. There is no emergency taking place today, yet the governor has given zero indication is willing to cede his extraordinary powers anytime soon. His open-ended ability to issue mandates that have the effect of law is crippling our representative system of government, subjecting the citizens of our state to the rule of one person with no end in sight.
Unfortunately, Democrats in the House Rules Committee, in a party-line vote, stopped my bill from reaching the House floor with no further action imminent. House Democrats have blocked nearly 20 attempts by Republicans on the House floor (including on Wednesday) to end the governor’s powers and now they won’t even let citizens have a say in the matter.
It’s concerning for the majority to disregard the citizens of our state and it’s a dereliction of their duty as elected officials to refuse to participate in making decisions that have significant consequences for all the people of our state. We’re at the point now, 13 months into the governor’s unilateral rule, where we are exhausting every means possible to restore balance at the Capitol and allow 201 legislators to participate in the decision-making process instead of one person continue calling all the shots.
Several more omnibus bills are expected to come up for votes next week, so watch for more as we make our way through those. Until next time, have a good weekend.