It's been another busy week in St. Paul. This week marks the end of our first set of deadlines. Policy bills that are going to survive the legislative process had to be heard by the end of today (Friday). There are a few exceptions to this. I will spare you the details and avoid the fine print/rules of it.
I have several bills that have made it through this initial deadline. They involve emergency response teams, getting state agencies off of our backs, and tax relief (to name a few).
Looking at the big picture- our state now has a $1.6 billion dollar surplus. What does that mean? It means that you, the taxpayer, have been over-billed by the state. Period.
When you go to the store and they over charge you, you have every right to take your receipt to the customer service counter and have the balance refunded to you. It is the right thing to do.
In VERY rough numbers, the tax refund would come to about $800 per tax payer in Minnesota; that's if you take the $1.6 billion surplus and divide it evenly by 2 million taxpayers.
My first choice will always be to give it back. However, the Republicans do not hold the Governor's Office. This takes refunds out of the picture.
My second choice would be to put the funds towards tax relief. Stop over taxing us! The Republicans promised to work on tax relief in the last election. I will strongly support giving YOU, the taxpayer, as much tax relief as possible.
My third choice would be to use the money to fix our roads and bridges. Again, in the last election Republicans promised to do something about this issue. You can expect a strong road-and-bridge-focused transportation bill coming out of the Minnesota House this year.
One other area I would be in favor of is to use part of the surplus to fix the ObamaCare disaster.
The first bill we passed this year gave premium relief to folks who were over-charged for their insurance. This was a good first step. However, many of you back in the district told us that this didn't go far enough. Many of you have NO insurance. You cannot afford to purchase it, and you need help. We must fix the ObamaCare disaster. Some of you were very passionate about this; thank you for sharing that with me! And I completely agree: we MUST do more to make private health insurance available to everyone.
I do not know what the federal government is planning to do in this regard. I do know that President Trump and Speaker Ryan are working together on the federal level to repeal and replace ObamaCare. However, that is not stopping us from working at the state level to help turn this nightmare around.
This week, the Minnesota House passed a bill that takes a big step towards fixing the problem. It is called the "re-insurance bill." Simply put, it will take pressure off of the private market to allow for more people to get insured. It is a foundational piece of reform legislation that must be hammered out in order to get the process moving. I voted in favor of this bill and look forward to seeing it becoming law.
In other news, I am also a co-author on two pro-Second Amendment bills. One bill would allow us to carry a firearm without state interference. It is also called the "Constitutional Carry" bill. In essence, the highest law of our land allows us to bear arms. I took an oath of office to uphold the U.S. Constitution, and this bill simply protects our constitutional right to "keep and bear arms."
The other Second Amendment-related bill is also called the "Castle Doctrine" bill. It would allow you to stand your ground to defend your home in the case of a home invasion. Currently, the law says we must first consider retreating from our homes. I couldn't disagree more. If someone invades your home then you should have the right to defend yourself, your family and loved ones. The hearings on these bills were packed. Many spoke in opposition to them. I spoke in favor and voted yes to both of them. These bills will become part of our Public Safety Policy omnibus bill.
Thank you for giving me the privilege to serve you in the Minnesota House of Representatives.
Have a GREAT weekend!