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Legislative News and Views - Rep. Josh Heintzeman (R)

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Legislative Update from Rep. Josh Heintzeman

Friday, May 03, 2019

Dear Neighbors,

We continued work this week passing the remaining omnibus finance bills. With the Democrats in control of the House, it likely comes as no surprise that I was unable to support the vast majority of these bills.

Transportation

On Monday, House Democrats approved their omnibus transportation finance bill. The bill increases the gas tax by 20 cents per gallon – a 70% increase – and in total raises taxes by more than $4 billion dollars over four years.

Remember, this massive tax increase is coming at a time when the state has a $1 billion budget surplus.

Just last session, House Republicans showed that we can make historic investments in our roads and bridges by prioritizing already existing funds and revenue streams. That’s why it is simply reckless for House Democrats to ask Minnesotans to pay 70% more at the pump. Minnesota families cannot afford this.

While we hear a lot about the gas tax, the bill also increases the vehicle registration tax, the metro sales tax, and the new vehicle sales tax. The bill transfers statutorily dedicated auto parts sales tax funds — $417 million in 2020-21 – into the general fund. This reversed the major investments House and Senate Republicans made during the last biennium to fund road and bridge infrastructure without a gas tax increase.

Republican leaders in the Senate have repeatedly stated that the gas tax is a non-starter, so I am hopeful that this will not become law.

Public Safety

Around 1:30 am Tuesday morning, Democrats approved their public safety bill. The legislation makes communities less safe by reducing sentencing and penalties for criminals and includes two highly-controversial gun control provisions. The bill narrowly passed on a 70-64 vote with 5 Democrats voting against the bill, the most of any DFL budget bill thus far.

During my time as your state representative, I have made clear my strong support for the 2nd Amendment. The anti-gun provisions in this bill trample on the 2nd Amendment rights of law-abiding Minnesotans and make a mockery of our right to due process. For those reasons, I was proud to vote against this bill and am hopeful that Senate Republicans will hold strong to make sure these provisions do not become law.

Environment

The House approved the environment and natural resources bill on Tuesday. With the abundance of lakes and outdoor recreation opportunities in our area, it should come as no surprise that this bill has a direct impact on the economic vitality of the Brainerd Lakes Area.

Unfortunately, I was unable to support the bill for a handful of reasons:

  • The bill dramatically raises license fees on virtually every type of watercraft by almost $6 million. Along with licensing fees, the aquatic invasive species surcharge fee is raised from $5 to $20.
  • It spends your hard-earned money on a variety of wasteful projects including $637,000 to plant private residential lawns with flowers for pollinators, $150,000 for a statewide action plan for soil health, and $250,000 for climate change outreach and engagement.
  • The bill grows government by bringing back the MPCA Citizen’s Board, and creating a new Office of Outdoor Recreation within Explore Minnesota Tourism, despite the fact that affected agencies did not ask for any of these changes. These needless expansions of government are solutions looking for problems.
  • This bill spends money contingent on passing an increased gas tax and solid waste tax.

I should say, the bill does funds some important things, like state parks, Soil and Water Conservation District operations, and Chronic Wasting Disease response, but there is just way too much frivolous spending, increased fees, and policies that grow government for me to support the bill.

Other bills

We approved a number of other omnibus finance bills including legislation to fund state government, higher education, and agriculture. These bills, like the others, contained provisions that would have received my support as standalone bills. But when analyzing omnibus bills, I must consider the totality of the spending, tax increases, and policy provisions when deciding whether I can support them. And the fact of the matter is that the bad FAR outweighs the good in these omnibus bills.

Staying in Touch

That’s all for this week’s update. I will have more information for you as the session progresses. In the meantime, I urge you to contact me to share any thoughts, concerns, or questions you may have. I can be reached by phone at 651-296-4333 or via email at rep.josh.heintzeman@house.mn.

Thanks and have a great weekend,
Josh

 

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