By Rep. Dean Urdahl
The 2023 session has reached its midpoint, with progress to report on some key issues and a lack of movement on others. Here’s a rundown of some of what we’ve seen so far:
It’s a budget year at the Capitol and the state has a $17.5 billion surplus. That indicates the state is still taxing people way too much and we need better structural imbalance. It is not right that our state is sitting on historic amounts of over-collected tax dollars at a time Minnesotans are struggling with dramatic price increases on pretty much everything.
Major tax relief – starting with completely ending the state tax on Social Security – should be a given this session. House and Senate Republicans recently unveiled a “Give it Back” plan, which provides $13 billion over two years in permanent tax cuts and one-time rebates benefiting Minnesotans both now and into the future. I personally am an author of legislation to fully repeal the state tax on Social Security and am pleased a measure to do so is included in this package.
These permanent tax cuts and one-time rebates not only are sustainable and worthy of bipartisan support, they also are the right things to do for Minnesotans. This subject remains a work in progress.
As the ranking minority member of the House Capital Investment Committee, I was heavily involved in crafting legislation the House recently approved, providing a total of nearly $2 billion in bonding and cash investments to fund infrastructure projects around the state.
One bill (H.F. 669) provides $1.5 billion in state bonds and the other (H.F. 670) appropriates around $392 million from the general fund. Each bill easily surpassed the threshold for passage, including a super-majority requisite bonding.
We bond to address the needs of our state infrastructure and that’s what this package is all about. Minnesotans want clean water and safe roads and bridges – those are the types of essential infrastructure projects delivered in these bills.
Also, this is one way other than meaningful tax relief that we can return money to the people. If we fail to uphold our responsibility at the state level, the needs will remain, and someone is still going to pay — likely in the form of higher property taxes. I am sure the Senate understands this and will approve these bills soon.
I continue working closely with legislation I have authored to restore civics as a priority in high schools, a subject I’ve spent years working to advance to mitigate a crisis of civics knowledge.
Seventy-seven percent of Americans between 18 and 34 can't name even one of their U.S. senators. Two-thirds of Americans can name at least one judge on American Idol. We've been in a civic slide to failure for 50 years and it is undermining our nation’s foundation.
The bill I have authored this year makes civics credit-relevant for high school juniors and/or seniors. It is on track to be included in a House education omnibus bill this year. Things also look promising in the Senate, where an education chair is carrying the companion bill.
Input on controversial issues
Thank you to everyone who continues providing input on these and other issues, helping me to best represent the people of District 18A and our area in general. This includes correspondence I have received opposing the majority’s more controversial and extreme proposals that already have moved through the House (including radical abortion policies) and others we may see as the session progresses (including gun-control bills).