Hello from the State Capitol,
It won’t be long before drivers can no longer use cell phones in their cars unless it is though hands-free operation.
HANDS FREE BILL SIGNED INTO LAW
Governor Walz has signed into law hands-free legislation that was crafted by House and Senate lawmakers in hopes that it will reduce the number of accidents that occur due to drivers who pay more attention to their cell phones than the road.
As I’ve said before, I don’t like adding new regulations, but sometimes it is just the right thing to do. We’ve seen enough accidents and deaths due to texting while driving, and we needed to take action.
Under current law, it is illegal to text while driving in Minnesota, but it is not illegal to type in a phone number or program a GPS system while behind the wheel. This legislation would allow voice activated cell phone use only, along with one-touch or headsets.
This legislation will save lives. Other states that have enacted similar laws have seen the number of crashes reduced, and I expect the same will happen in Minnesota. The law will take effect August 1.
ARE RAISING TAXES AND STARTING NEW LONG-TERM PROGRAMS REALLY A GOOD IDEA FOR OUR STATE?
It is the time during session when the House omnibus bills are being unveiled. These big bills (it’s time to end these big omnibus bills!) are a compilation of a huge number of smaller bills that contain the House Democratic majority’s priorities for this session.
What I’m seeing in these bills concerns me greatly, as both state government and our taxes are growing immensely. This is a huge issue for our state and especially for our area where we sit so close to the Iowa border and have another state’s lower taxes with which to compete.
The Democrats plan to increase taxes $12 billion over four years - making health care, gas, and other everyday goods and services more expensive for all of us – will hurt people and will hurt our state’s economy.
Of course we have core state functions where funding is necessary, such as educating our children, taking care of our roads and bridges, and caring for our most vulnerable citizens, but we can accomplish these priorities without raising taxes. I support taking care of core functions of government like these, and I support doing it well. However, at a time when Minnesota has a $1 billion surplus, it is quite clear that we can do this without making people pay more in taxes.
No matter what one’s position on taxes, we must never forget that taxation is, in essence, the government taking money that belongs to someone else. It either takes more or less from people, but it is still money that belongs to the people who have earned it. Clearly, it takes money to run our government, and some taxation is necessary. However, there is a delicate balance that needs to be maintained before the taking becomes too much.
Part of the Democrat plan in these omnibus bills would start new and expensive programs that necessitate long-term future funding. I am adamantly against starting new long-term programs right now because Minnesota already has many current obligations that we’re not funding adequately – things like special education (costing our local school districts millions of dollars a year), home and community based services that help our seniors and vulnerable people stay in their homes, teacher pensions, and more. Raising taxes and spending the surplus away to pay for new permanent programs while we haven’t yet paid for our current obligations is senseless to me.
Imagine your own home budget. Let’s say you have a three bedroom home. Part of your budget plans ahead for the expenses of taking care of that home like the eventual need for new shingles, paint, or windows.
Now let’s say you decide you want to add a fun new addition onto your home. However, you really don’t have the money to do that in your current budget. So, you make the decision to dip into that upkeep account for your current home and build your fun new addition. However, now you won’t have the money to take care of your current home, and you’ve also created new spending needs for the upkeep of your new addition. That’s not sustainable!
Minnesotans do not need or want higher taxes. We are already listed as one of the highest taxed states in the nation. In addition, the future budget forecasts are showing less and less money coming into the state. It is certainly not the time to pile on new long-term programs.
Our state should live within its means just like families do with their household budgets. At some point common sense has to prevail, and offering $12 billion in tax increases over the next four years while starting expensive new long-term programs when we haven’t met our current obligations is simply not wise governance.
I enjoyed chatting this week with Mandy Doocy of Blooming Prairie.
Mandy, who is attending the Augsburg University Masters of Social Work program, was here at the Capitol for Social Worker Day on the Hill. One of my favorite things, and most informative to me, is to learn from local people like this. Thanks for coming, Mandy!
Talk to you soon,