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Legislative News and Views - Rep. Lisa Demuth (R)

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Legislative update

Friday, March 19, 2021

Dear Neighbor, 

Congratulations to the ROCORI FFA Livestock Evaluation Team, which finished second in region competition and will be advancing to state in April. Way to go and good luck, Katie, Abby, Alana and Kaitlin! 

As for legislative news: 

Video meetings 

’Tis the season for video legislative forums and town halls. Earlier this week, I joined fellow legislators from Districts 13 and 14 in attending the St. Cloud Area Chamber of Commerce 2021 Session Update. It was a good discussion and some of the key points that resonated with me include: 

  • Businesses expressed great concern over the state taxing the forgiven Payment Protection Program loans the federal government provided as a life raft. (More on this subject in a minute). 
  • Career Force Centers remain shut down under the governor’s executive orders and are asking why they are being left out of the governor’s “dial turns” toward re-opening. These operations perform important services and it is disappointing to see them so negatively impacted. 
  • On a similar note, Boys and Girls Club organizations have not received the same latitude toward re-opening that our schools have. This discrepancy – literally different rules applying to the very same children – is a disservice to young Minnesotans who would benefit from stability. 

The latter two points once again underscore the importance of restoring balance at the Capitol so the Legislature can participate in the decision-making process. Legislators would be able to relay these concerns and respond accordingly instead of having one person call the shots and later scramble to make corrections as we have seen numerous times. 

Also, thank you to everyone who participated in this morning’s Community Conversation town hall meeting Sen. Howe, Rep. O’Driscoll and I hosted on Zoom. Your input is very much appreciated and will be kept in mind as we make our way through the rest of the session. 

Quiet start to session 

This is the House’s least productive start to a session dating back to at least the early 90s, with just five bills approved through the first 10 weeks – none of which were of great significance. House Republicans this week took action to try to start moving four crucial, time-sensitive bills related to the SAFE Account, Paycheck Protection Program tax relief, Unemployment Insurance tax relief, and summer learning. These issues need not be partisan ones and, in fact, should receive overwhelming support. Here is a look at four bills that warrant prompt approval: 

  • The SAFE Account sets aside $35 million for mutual aid agreements for anticipated law enforcement response for the Derek Chauvin trial and other major public safety events. That bill has been on hold since the majority’s proposal failed twice weeks ago on the House floor. A common-sense compromise worthy of strong, bipartisan support has been put forward and has been endorsed by the Star Tribune Editorial Board.  
  • Currently, Minnesota is the only state in the upper Midwest that has yet to exempt forgiven PPP loan payments. Without approval of a bill, businesses could owe hundreds of thousands of dollars or more in state income taxes simply for using the PPP funds as intended by the federal government. The Senate already passed a PPP tax relief bill with a veto-proof majority on a 55-12 vote but things remain at a standstill in the House.  
  • A bill exempting $10,200 in Unemployment Insurance income, the same exempted by the federal government, to eliminate a surprise tax bill for people who have been out of work. 
  • A bill has been authored which applies federal funds the state is receiving toward defraying costs of in-person summer school learning to help struggling students get back on track after a year of distance learning. The bill also provides funding for student mental health, as well as early learning scholarships. 

Opportunities to take each up each of these bills for votes on the floor were presented this week, but each attempt was denied by the majority. 

Gov’s revised budget 

Gov. Tim Walz issued a revised budget proposal Thursday, taking into account updated fiscal data provided in the state’s February economic forecast. While his first proposal included a $1.7 billion tax increase, this one still includes $670 million in tax hikes. 

Furthermore, the governor’s revised budget fails to fully exempt the aforementioned PPP loans from state taxes and includes tax hikes on both individual and corporate income taxes. 

The big question is why the governor is proposing tax increases at all. The state has a $1.6 billion surplus, $2.5 billion coming to the state from the recently passed federal relief bill and reserve accounts that are flush with cash.  

This is about the worst time you could imagine to raise taxes. People have been through so much the last year, from jobs lost to reduced income and/or simple economic uncertainty, largely caused by restrictions placed upon them. I hope we can change our approach and start focusing on helping workers and families regain their footing instead of adding to their burden. 

Childcare provider bill 

A bill I have authored (H.F. 61) to establish an ombudsperson to help childcare providers work through licensing issues, corrective orders and other concerns recently received unanimous approval from the House committee on early childhood and is set for its next committee hearing. Stay tuned for more on this subject as it moves through the process in the hopes of soon reaching the floor for final approval.



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