By Rep. Jordan Rasmusson
The Legislature approved a new state budget just ahead of the June 30 end of the fiscal year, sending a complete two-year spending package to the governor for enactment.
There are numerous reasons to be pleased with sections of the new budget, including passage of legislation I personally authored to strengthen crisis stabilization units in Otter Tail County and beyond. Improving access to mental health services is one of my top legislative priorities and the measure I authored will help in that regard. It will provide more lower-cost, short-term services for people experiencing a mental health crisis.
With divided powers at the Capitol, House Republicans were able to accomplish a number of other positive outcomes for Minnesotans in the new budget. For instance:
While it wasn’t the full extension we were seeking, House Republicans gained another year on the reinsurance program that allowed us to stop the trend of double-digit spikes in health care premiums impacting many Minnesotans. We will continue advocating for affordable, accessible health care in our state. A lack of action next year could return us to the days of 30-percent premium increases, fewer health care options, enrollment caps, and a destabilized individual market.
We also successfully defeated numerous anti-police measures that would have made it harder for law enforcement officers to do their jobs and keep our communities safe. I am proud to stand with law enforcement and stand up against calls to “defund the police” from people who demonize our officers.
It also should be noted that, despite a $4 billion surplus, there were proposals for billions of dollars in tax increases. Republicans in the Legislature stood strong and prevented them from becoming reality. This includes not allowing additional state taxes to be placed on suffering businesses that received federally forgiven Paycheck Protection Program loans, or on unemployment insurance issued to people who have been out of work.
Despite these positive aspects, I voted against each of the omnibus finance packages because, as a whole, they comprise a budget trajectory that is simply unsustainable. The $52 billion-plus budget for the new biennium is an increase of 8-9 percent compared with the state general fund spending of around 48 billion in the previous cycle. This spending increase does not reconcile with the fact so many Minnesotans have suffered reduced income in the last 16 months and, especially with my background in finance, I could not support such a spike in state spending.
With the House now in interim, I look forward to discussing these and other issues with the people I represent as we reflect on this year’s actions and prepare for what may be in store in 2022.