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Legislative News and Views - Rep. Dean Urdahl (R)

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Legislative update

Thursday, May 25, 2023
Memorial Day

Dear Neighbor,

There is a lot to get to in this newsletter, so let’s cut right to the chase:

Memorial Day

Memorial Day is Monday and I look forward to attending area events as we honor the true American heroes who gave their lives to defend our nation and uphold our liberties. I hope you are able to attend events as well.

2023 session adjourns

The 2023 legislative session ended Monday and it will be most remembered for Democrats increasing state spending by more than 40 percent while raising taxes by nearly $10 billion despite a $17.5 billion state surplus.

The new two-year state budget will increase spending from $52 billion to $72 billion. Tax hikes include raising the state’s gas tax by 3.5 cents per gallon and tying it to inflation, increasing license tab fees, adding a 50-cent delivery tax, applying a new payroll tax that will hit employers and employees alike, and more.

Meanwhile, Democrats failed to provide a full elimination of the state’s Social Security tax despite nearly universal support for that move. And, after Gov. Tim Walz began the session by supporting $2,000 surplus rebates for joint filers, Democrats ultimately approved just a fraction of that amount – $260 per person, or $520 per couple, with a $75,000/$150,000 qualification threshold.

Aside from state finances, Democrats enacted several highly controversial, partisan policy measures. This includes adopting some of the world’s most extreme abortion policy, enacting a state-funded speech registry that could undermine First Amendment rights, declaring Minnesota a sanctuary state for transgender healthcare for children and adopting gun-control laws that will do more to burden law-abiding citizens than stop violent criminals. Another ill-advised Democrat provision will end electronic pull tabs as we know them, dealing a major blow to local charitable organizations.

Nursing home funding

I am pleased legislative Republicans scored a big win for nursing homes by successfully negotiating $300 million more than Democrats had proposed providing them. This added funding will help that industry at a time nursing homes have been forced to close and families have been left scrambling to find care for their loved ones.

Bonding bill

The Minnesota House and Senate both approved a $2.6 billion package to fund infrastructure projects around the state Monday, just hours before the 2023 session was set to adjourn.

The package is a mixture of general obligation bonds and cash from the state's $17.5 billion surplus. As the ranking Republican on capital investment, I was closely involved with negotiations and the finished product emphasized core infrastructure projects, namely roads and bridges, clean water, wastewater and flood mitigation.

It was the first bonding bill to receive full legislative approval since 2020 and demand was building with requests far exceeding the total appropriated in this package. Deferred maintenance of state infrastructure does not make issues go away; they compound and end up costing taxpayers more in the long run. It is our responsibility to maintain property we own as taxpayers and this bill helps us do that.

Also, while I would have preferred more of the state surplus be returned to the taxpayers, funding these projects throughout the state is another way people can indirectly benefit.

Funding the package appropriates for projects in our District 16A includes:

  • $1 million for Litchfield Wellness Center
  • $2.25 million for restoring buildings in downtown Litchfield
  • Nearly $4 million for Lake Lillian wastewater project
  • $5 million for First District-related wastewater treatment in Litchfield

The package provides $381 million to the Public Facilities Authority for water and wastewater projects, $85 million for local/township roads and $67 million for local bridges.

Civics requirement awaiting signature

Legislation I authored to re-emphasize civics in our schools was enacted into law Wednesday. It requires civics to be offered as a course for credit to Minnesota high school juniors or seniors.

A de-emphasis of civics in schools throughout the nation has contributed to an erosion of knowledge on the subject. Current reports show fewer than one in four Minnesota high school graduates are proficient in their knowledge of government. My goal with this bill is to fix that trend, helping to ensure our students will have a functioning knowledge of civics as they graduate high school and transition into more advanced roles in society and government.

Look for more from the House soon. For now, I hope you enjoy Memorial Day weekend and let me know how I can help.