The Capitol has felt bit like home on recent days. First, Mom and Dad visited the House Chamber to celebrate Dad’s 80th birthday on Friday. Then, our local pastor, Denny Curran from River of Life in Cold Spring, served as a guest chaplain on Monday (pictured above with me, along with Dave and Dianne Brunsvold, and Ordean and Marlene Peterson). Both days were special in their own ways and it was so nice to share those moments.
As for actual legislative news, only four full days remain in the 2019 session before we are scheduled to adjourn and agreement has not yet been reached on a new two-year state budget.
The gridlock still centers on the governor and the House majority proposing to raise taxes by $12 billion at a time we have a $1 billion surplus. This includes their proposal to raise the gas tax by 20 cents per gallon, something which has made headlines and continues to be a topic of discussion at the water cooler.
Even if the 20-cent increase to the gas tax were reduced to 16 cents more per gallon, here is how it would play out: 7 cents would be used to backfill existing transportation funding the governor/House majority want to take away from roads and bridges and move into the general fund to be spent elsewhere. Another 3 cents would be used to pay for a working family tax credit.
That leaves only around 6 cents in new transportation revenue and, of that, half goes to metro transit, so only 3 cents would be left for roads and bridges. That’s just unacceptable, especially when you consider raising the gas tax would hurt lower income earners the most. I cannot support such a plan.
Another point of contention in budget negotiations revolves around a tax on health care providers, AKA the “sick tax.” A 2-percent state tax on virtually all health care services is set to expire, yet the governor and House majority are looking to keep it on the books. The cost of keeping it active would cost Minnesotans $2.5 billion over the next four years. And, just as with the gas tax, it would impact lower earners the most. For instance, this tax adds (on average) another $300 for every baby delivery and jacks up the costs of cancer treatments by thousands of dollars.
And, once again from the category of flying under the radar, this tax on health care also is applied to dental services, yet virtually none of this revenue is put back into funding dental care for people who could use assistance.
I will pass along more news as things unfold in St. Paul. I look forward to a working weekend at the Capitol so we can get a budget in place and adjourn on time, just as the people of Minnesota sent us here to do.