Dear Friends and Neighbors,
Greetings from St. Paul. Today was the second committee deadline for hearing finance bills and our committees have been meeting day and night in hearings. Between the Senate and the House, over 5,000 bills have been introduced! Obviously, not all these bills get hearings.
As we head into the weekend, I would like to share a few things that are happening at the Capitol, including an update on the Line 3 pipeline, childcare fraud, news regarding flood relief, and House budget proposals.
Line 3 Update
On Tuesday, the Minnesota Public Utilities commission unanimously voted down a Walz administration petition to reconsider the Certificate of Need for the Enbridge Line 3 replacement pipeline. This is now the third time the PUC has unanimously voted to uphold its decision to grant the certificate for this project.
Like you, I want to know that my tax dollars are spent wisely. So I scratch my head when I see one state agency (spending our tax dollars) suing another as in the Enbridge case. It’s now up to the governor whether his administration will appeal the PUC’s decision and continue the state’s legal efforts to challenge the Line 3 replacement pipeline. I’m hopeful he makes the right decision and ends the political games in order to let this long overdue project move forward.
Speaking of tax dollars, I wrote last week about the widespread fraud in our state’s childcare assistance program that was recently uncovered in a nonpartisan report. On Monday, I joined my Republican colleagues in the House as we unveiled a legislative package to address this fraud. Included in this proposal are measures to increase penalties and consequences for committing fraud; provide better controls to prevent fraud from occurring; give investigators additional tools to aid in their investigations; eliminate eligibility for those who have committed fraud; require enhanced eligibility checks; and improve oversight of the program.
While this proposal represents a positive step in our efforts to get this rampant fraud under control, I’m concerned the DFL House majority isn’t taking this problem seriously enough. I’m disappointed that, three months into the legislative session, they’ve held hearings on so few bills and still haven’t held a hearing on the report itself.
Years ago, the legislature wisely established a disaster contingency account so the state could rapidly respond to natural disasters without calling a special session. On Thursday, the House approved legislation to replenish funding for the state’s disaster contingency account with $10 million. With this winter’s record snowfall, serious flooding is already happening throughout the state so this action was timely.
Democrats in the House released their state budget proposal on Monday. While we don’t know a lot of the details, it’s evident that their budget includes more spending and higher taxes than the governor has recently proposed. Their budget also indicates that they are joining the governor in calling for a 20 cent per gallon gas tax hike as well as a continuation of taxes on nearly all healthcare services.
With a budget surplus exceeding $1 billion, and millions of dollars of fraud in public programs, I can’t support these huge tax increases. Minnesota has enough money to fund our priorities. As your lawmakers, we should agree on a responsible state budget that makes investments where we need them without crushing taxpayers.
We have just seven weeks to come together and pass a balanced budget so we have our work cut out for us!
Marie Reyerson, the new Executive Director of Brookstone Manor in Grand Rapids, stopped by for Care Providers of Minnesota Day at the Capitol.
Joe Abeyta, LaPrairie City Councilor, was at the Capitol for a hearing in support of the Hill Annex Mine.
Please Contact Me
As always, please contact me if you have any questions or concerns on any legislative issue. I value your input and enjoy hearing from you.
Have a great weekend,