Dear Friends and Neighbors,
A little over a month now remains in the 2019 legislative session. The majority of work in committees wrapped up this week, and the coming weeks will primarily be spent on the House floor debating, amending, and voting on budget bills to fund various areas of state government.
In this week’s update, I’ll share some info on the proposed tax increases in these budget bills, recent newsworthy votes in the House, and this year’s bonding bill. But first…
The Ranger Party
Wednesday evening was the Iron Range Delegation’s biennial “Ranger Party”. Attended by hundreds of people, this popular event is hosted by a bipartisan group of Iron Range legislators that I’m proud to be a part of. This event brings together people of all political stripes and reminds us that many of the important issues facing our area – such as mining and broadband expansion – are bipartisan issues that we agree on and have always worked together on.
Proposed Tax Increases
The House Democrat majority has recently assembled its omnibus budget bills. While I’m hopeful these bills are improved before going to the governor, I have some deep concerns with them in their current forms. One of my biggest concerns is the hefty tax increases they contain. On Monday, Democrats released the details of their tax bill, which includes more than $4 billion in new tax increases over the next four years.
This is a big chunk of the shocking $12 billion in new taxes in the next four years found in Democrats’ proposed budget. This massive tax hike is highlighted by a 20 cent per gallon gas tax increase and a tax on nearly all healthcare services. When the state has a $1 billion budget surplus, $12 billion in new taxes is completely unnecessary and would do damage on families’ budgets.
I’ve heard from many of you about how a 20 cent per gallon gas tax hike would negatively affect you and your family. If you haven’t already, I encourage you to please contact me to share how paying more at the pump would impact your everyday life.
Recent House Votes
Last Friday, the House considered a bill to issue Minnesota driver’s licenses to undocumented immigrants, which I voted against. Minnesota must enforce our nation’s laws and issuing driver’s licenses to those who’ve illegally entered the United States would suggest our laws don’t matter and aren’t to be taken seriously.
On Tuesday of this week, the House passed legislation to address distracted driving by banning the use of cell phones and handheld devices while driving – unless they are operated in a hands-free mode. Distracted driving has become a dangerous problem in Minnesota and too many lives have been lost in accidents caused by it. I voted for this bill, which I believe is an important step in our efforts to prevent distracted driving and traffic deaths. This bill was passed by the Senate yesterday and the governor signed it into law this morning (takes effect August 1).
I wrote last week about discussion surrounding the prospect of this year’s bonding bill, which helps local communities statewide fund construction projects, such as roads and bridges or water infrastructure. This year is a non-bonding year, meaning any bonding bill passed by the legislature is generally only a few hundred million dollars. However, earlier this week Democrats rolled out a more than $1.5 billion bonding bill. In a non-bonding year, I believe such a large number represents irresponsible government spending and borrowing.
Nonetheless, the bill includes the legislation I’m authoring to provide funding for the city of Grand Rapids to make improvements to the IRA Civic Center, including roof replacement and other improvements for health, safety, and Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) compliance. I'm also still pushing for the Public Facilities Authority (which receives funding through the bonding bill) to provide funding for the City of Deer River for critical sewer and water system improvements. I’m hopeful we can get these projects across the finish line this year, and I will continue working to get them included as part of a responsibly-sized bonding bill.
Please Contact Me
As always, please contact me if you have any questions or concerns on any legislative issue. Also, with next weekend being Easter, I hope you have a blessed holiday and have the chance to spend some time with your loved ones.
Have a great weekend and Happy Easter,