A couple quick notes before we get to legislative news from this week:
First of all, congratulations to Border West, Albany and Alexandria boys basketball teams for reaching the state tournament this week. Good luck to Albany as it takes on Dilworth-Glyndon-Felton in the Class AA semifinals 8 p.m. today at Target Center!
Also, this is National Ag Week, with National Ag Day having taken place Tuesday, and I want to thank our farmers for all the hard work they put in to keep our state and nation fed. Agriculture is a crucial component in our area’s economy and your efforts are much appreciated. For some background, the National Ag Day program was started in 1973 to increase the public awareness of agriculture’s vital role in our society. Click here for more on this program and, once again, thank you to people who work in the ag industry.
At the Capitol this week, House Democrats last night led to passage a bill (H.F. 1200) which prohibits state prisons and local jails from contracting with private corrections vendors or being housed in private prisons or jails. This has significant consequences in our district by dealing a major setback to Appleton, which is home to a currently vacant prison.
House Republicans offered an amendment to the bill providing some flexibility by allowing the state to lease and staff (exclusively with public employees) privately owned facilities to house inmates. This would have at least given Appleton hope that someday this facility could once again be opened to provide hundreds of local jobs, a significant boost to the local tax base and boost a dwindling population in the city. Unfortunately, the majority blocked this amendment before passing the bill, which just so happens to be authored by a member whose district is home to the St. Cloud prison.
It is highly concerning that lengthy House Republican pleas for the majority to consider the damage this bill will cause Appleton seemed to fall on deaf ears.
In other news, the House and Senate majorities and Gov. Tim Walz announced they have reached an agreement on the framework for our state’s next two-year budget plan. It would increase Minnesota’s budget by almost $18 billion for the next biennium, spending the state’s $17.5 billion surplus and more. This represents a nearly 40-percent increase to the state’s current $52 billion biennial budget and would bring our new General Fund spending total to $71.9 billion.
Tax relief accounts for a rather small portion of their budget proposal, and Democrat leaders have not committed to fully repealing the state tax on Social Security. It is concerning that, despite a $17.5 billion surplus, they propose increasing taxes, such as sales taxes and license tab fees.
This will be an ongoing topic of discussion this session as we continue sorting through the details of this proposal. I did provide a closer look at the state’s education budget in a column I submitted to area newspapers this week. Check your local publications, or click here, for my column which reads, in part:
“I met with area school officials last week, and there was discussion concerning all the mandates being proposed this year that would affect pre-K to 12 education. Each of them represents a good idea and would be nice to have, but each contains a cost, some a significant cost. And taken together, they represent a large operating increase for our school districts. …
Until next time, have a good weekend and good luck to the Albany Huskies tonight.