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Legislative News and Views - Rep. Bob Vogel (R)

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Legislative Update: End of Session

Thursday, May 30, 2019

Friends, 

The 2019 Special Session wrapped up early Saturday morning (6:50 AM – about 21 hours after it started) with budget bills sent to Governor Walz after passing both the Minnesota House and Senate. From my perspective it was not the way a $40+ billion a year entity should be managed, but unfortunately, it seems more the norm than the exception.

With more than a billion dollar surplus and strong reserves, Minnesota was in a strong position to pass a budget that funded our priorities without raising a dime in taxes — much less the $12 billion in increases that passed the House majority initially. 

The special session resulted in a budget that included the Sick Tax, which will raise the cost of health care on Minnesota families by more than $2 billion over the next four years. Fortunately, Republican leadership helped blocked billions in other tax increases and policy provisions which would have made Minnesota a less desirable place to do business, and raise the tax burden on employees and employers with a new payroll tax.

The special session was called by Governor Walz after days of closed-door meetings, and a "tribunal" comprised of the Governor, the Speaker, and the Senate Majority Leader. Some conference committees (the committees assigned to work out the differences between house and senate bill language) did not adopt a single provision in a public setting, resulting in entire bills being decided behind closed doors. The largest budget bill (HHS) was not publicly released until after 4PM on Friday—six hours after the special session had begun at 10:00 AM that morning. I know things like that are disconcerting to you, and they are frustrating to me, but unfortunately, whether we like it or not that was the situation we faced. The outcome determined by the majority was going to be the same whether done now or sometime in June at the last minute before a shutdown.  

I was happy the House Republicans were able to successfully negotiate, in exchange for a conclusion to the special session by 7AM Saturday, changes that will enhance transparency next session. The alternative was to have the special session go 3 days, however, the outcome of the legislation would have been the same, there just would have been a delay in how long it took for the majority to pass the bill. Those changes include a change to the House committee structure that will increase transparency and fix flaws in the structure DFL majority implemented this year, as well as an agreement that future end of session negotiations will include the minority leadership from both the house and senate so all the voters will have someone in the room to represent their interests, not just those who voted for members in the majority of each body.

I believe nearly everyone involved agreed the process at the end of session was not transparent and a disappointment. My experience in running a small business has taught me that if I don’t have a fully functioning team in place before the stress of big occurrence is thrust upon me I am more likely to limit to a very few, or even myself, the decisions that must be fashioned. With a new Governor, new House Speaker, and relatively new Senate majority leader I believe this “limiting” is what happened over the past few weeks, and lead to what appeared to me to be a very disjointed session, and special session.  My hope is that with lessons learned, and in the end some attention paid to both the House and Senate minorities, things next session should be more transparent for both the public and the legislators they send to St. Paul to represent their interests. 

With all above said, and wanting to be as positive as possible about what was done over the past 4.5 months there were some bipartisan wins from this past session include: 

  • First income tax rate cut in 20 years: The tax bill lowered the second-tier rate from 7.05% to 6.8% beginning in 2019, allowing most Minnesotans to keep more of their hard-earned money. While House Republicans voted against the tax bill as a result of the provider tax, this historic rate reduction, along with federal conformity will mean more money in people's pockets and fewer headaches next tax season.
  • Extending Reinsurance: The final budget agreement extended reinsurance for two years, continuing a program that has proven to lower health care costs for families and become a national model that other states red and blue alike are following. Republicans also stopped harmful proposals like "ONEcare" that would have hurt rural hospitals thanks to their lower reimbursement rate.
  • No Nursing Home Cuts: Republicans fought Democrat-backed efforts to cut $68 million from nursing homes. These cuts would have devastated budgets for nursing facilities and harmed care for aging Minnesotans.
  • No Gas Tax: Republicans stood strong and blocked all of the Democrat-backed transportation tax increases, including the Governor's 70 percent increase to the gas tax, new metro-wide sales tax, increased license plate fees, and increased sales tax on vehicle sales.
  • Cracking Down on Fraud: The final HHS bill included provisions to crack down on fraud in the Child Care Assistance Program (CCAP). These include stricter reporting requirements, stronger oversight, and a case-tracking system at the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension to help track fraud cases. While there's still more work to do, these provisions are a good first-step toward restoring integrity in CCAP and our other public programs.


I know this was a rather long summary so thanks for taking the time to read it.

Please Stay in Touch 

Please continue to stay in touch to share your thoughts and ideas on issues important to you. You can schedule a time to meet with me in my office anytime by calling (651) 296-7065 or share your thoughts via email by emailing me at rep.bob.vogel@house.mn.

Have a great summer,

Bob

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