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Legislative News and Views - Rep. John Petersburg (R)

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Thursday, February 10, 2022

When your state has a nearly $8 billion budget surplus at its disposal, common sense would tell you taxes do not need to be raised under any circumstances because the state has already collected too much of your money.


But most of us know that common sense doesn’t always prevail, especially when it comes to actions, or in this case inaction, by the state legislature.


Minnesota’s business owners are preparing for a payroll tax increase of 15% or more in order to replenish the state’s Unemployment Insurance (UI) Trust Fund. When record-setting unemployment claims depleted this fund, the federal government loaned us more than $1 billion in assistance. That bill is due on March 15, and without legislative action tax hikes on business owners will make up the difference.


Of course, with a $7.746 billion budget surplus AND nearly $1 billion in federal COVID relief money that is currently unspent, all lawmakers would have to do is cut a check tomorrow and eliminate the problem for good. 


But the Minnesota House Democratic majority doesn’t want to take care of the problem just yet. They want to use this issue as a political bargaining chip. In other words, because Republicans want this problem taken care of immediately, the Democrats are playing the long game hoping to get something they want in return. 


In the Minnesota House Workforce and Business Development Policy and Finance Committee this week, a bill was heard that would allocate more than $1 billion in American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 funding to replenish the Unemployment Trust Fund. 


A bill hearing is always a good start, but our local business owners need legislative action as they have suffered enough under Biden/Walz leadership: forced business closures, cost of living increases, supply chain woes, and difficulty finding people to work.


Local businesses are the backbone of Minnesota’s economy. We should be doing all we can to help them out. Instead, House Democratic leadership, along with Governor Walz, are showing no urgency at all in eliminating this unnecessary tax increase. This is truly unfortunate. 


In addition to eliminating this tax increase on local business owners, this mammoth surplus allows us to explore new opportunities that make government more efficient without collecting more taxes. The state’s budget is set, and agencies know how much they have to spend this biennium. Now we should be finding ways to make government work better for its citizens and help them keep more money in their pockets.


Next week, maps that highlight Minnesota’s new legislative districts are expected to be unveiled. I will be sure to let you know how these new maps impact Owatonna and Waseca, as they will be in place for the next ten years.