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Legislative News and Views - Rep. Sandy Layman (R)

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News From Representative Layman 5-31-2019

Friday, May 31, 2019

Dear Friends and Neighbors, 

The legislature convened for a one-day special session last Friday after adjourning regular session without the completion of a budget. The special session concluded early Saturday morning with a budget sent to the governor after passage in both the House and Senate.

With my legislative colleagues on the Capitol roof during a break in the action on the final day of regular session.

It was disappointing that a special session was required for the legislature to finish Minnesota’s next two-year budget. And it was equally disappointing that a major holdup causing a special session was Democrats’ unwillingness to give up their proposed $12 billion in tax increases for so long. Thankfully, the final budget the governor will sign does not include the entirety of this massive tax hike.

Ultimately, I was pleased with many of the outcomes this year as there were a number of good things that will become law. Both sides were able to work past stark differences in order to compromise on a budget agreement, and I appreciate the governor compromising by giving up some of the worst pieces of his plan. In the end, we avoided many of the bad policies that were considered this year.

Notable positives from the 2019 session include:

  • No Gas Tax: We prevented all of the proposed transportation tax increases, including the 70 percent increase to the gas tax, vehicle sales tax, and license tab fees. In addition, the auto parts sales tax revenue that the state is already collecting will continue to be dedicated to roads and bridges.
  • No Nursing Home Cuts: We stopped Democrats’ proposal to cut $68 million from nursing homes. These cuts would have devastated budgets for nursing facilities and harmed care for aging Minnesotans.
  • Continuation of Reinsurance: The final budget extends reinsurance for two years, continuing a program that has proven to lower insurance rates for Minnesota families each of the past two years.
  • Broadband Funding: The legislature is providing an additional $40 million for critical broadband development and expansion in rural Minnesota communities.
  • First income tax rate cut in 20 years: The tax bill lowered the second-tier rate from 7.05% to 6.8%, allowing most Minnesotans to keep more of their hard-earned money. This historic rate reduction, along with federal tax conformity, means more money in people's pockets and fewer headaches next tax season.

Process/Transparency Concerns

I was very concerned with the process that unfolded at the end of session. Nearly all the decisions were made behind closed doors by just the governor and two legislative leaders. This stripped the process of transparency and left other legislators and the public out of the loop.

This is a process that should be carried out by all 201 legislators from around the state who have been elected by Minnesotans to represent them and assemble budgets. It’s the constitutional duty of the legislature to write laws and send them to the governor for action, and it’s concerning that this year’s process involved a lot of that lawmaking authority in the governor’s hands. It should also be done in public, where the process is transparent and citizens can weigh in and be informed.

Minnesotans expect better than this and I’m pleased that plans are already being discussed regarding ways this process can be made more transparent. We don’t want what happened this year to become the new norm for future sessions.

Bonding Bill

Because of the way the process unfolded, there was also no bonding bill this year. Next session is a non-budget year in which bonding will be a bigger focus, and I’m hopeful we can then put together a bonding bill to help aid local communities fund infrastructure projects. When that time comes around, I will continue pushing for funding for Deer River to make critical sewer and water system improvements as well as for Grand Rapids to make emergency repairs and improvements to the IRA Civic Center.

Sick Tax

Finally, the budget includes a measure that is expected to raise the cost of Minnesotans’ healthcare by $2 billion through the continuation of the sick tax. The sick tax – a tax on nearly all healthcare services in Minnesota – was set to disappear at the end of the year. My main concern is that it will most impact the sickest Minnesotans who make the most trips to the doctor and already face the highest medical bills.

In addition, revenue collected from the sick tax no longer goes solely for its originally intended purpose of helping low-income Minnesotans access and afford healthcare. These dollars end up going to our state’s overall health and human services budget and ultimately finance other government programs. I believe we should have allowed the sick tax to sunset this year as planned, but going forward we must prioritize programs within health and human services that help those who this revenue was originally intended to help.

Please Contact Me

As always, please contact me if you have any questions or concerns. I value your input and enjoy hearing from you.

Have a great weekend and enjoy our long-awaited summer weather.

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