Greetings from St. Paul, where this week Gov. Tim Walz released his budget proposal for the 2020-21 biennium. Before we get to that, I want to congratulate Upsala junior Laura Lange for recently notching her 1,000th career point for the Cardinals girls basketball team. Laura still has the rest of this season and all of next season to build on her total, so it will be interesting to see where she finishes. Good luck, Laura, and the rest of the Upsala Cardinals.
Also, kudos to new Little Falls ag teacher and FFA adviser Beth Berlin for thinking outside the box and working on some new concepts for learning that bring together FFA and student agricultural education. Students say they like it and let’s hope positive results continue because ag is such an important industry in our state, the backbone of our economy in many ways, yet interest sometimes wanes. Nice job, Ms. Berlin and I look forward to seeing the growth your approaches bring.
Gov’s budget plan
As for the governor’s budget proposal, it spends $49.8 billion for FY 20-21, an 8.6 percent increase from the current General Fund budget. It also includes $3 billion in tax increases over the next two years alone, and $4.7 billion in tax increases for 2022-23.
Of particular note, the governor’s proposal would raise Minnesota’s gas tax by 20 cents per gallon – a 70-percent increase – vaulting Minnesota’s gas tax to fourth-highest in the nation.
I realize this is the governor’s first time through this budget process and he’s feeling his way through the dark, throwing some things at the wall to see what sticks. The one big thing he’s going to have to reconcile in the next several weeks is that his idea of raising the gas tax by 20 cents per gallon is not plausible, creating a hole in his budget so big you could drive a truck through it – if you could afford the gas.
But, if the governor truly wants to make our state’s gas tax one of the nation’s four most expensive, I’ll spend the next three weeks talking to people in our district, asking them if they are ready for a 70-percent gas tax increase. I’ll come back to St. Paul with their message and tell the governor what people in our area think about paying more at the pump, along with paying higher prices for any other goods and services impacted by transportation costs. It really does not make sense to even offer opinions on other parts of the governor’s budget plan until this unworkable part is reconciled.
The governor’s plan also includes increases to tab fees, the motor vehicle sales tax, the metro area sales tax, business taxes, and reinstatement of the sick tax, which is set to expire at the end of the year, adding $1 billion to the cost of health care for Minnesotans over the next two years.
The governor’s plan also does not extend Minnesota’s reinsurance program, which could cause rates to skyrocket once again by 50 percent or more on the individual market. Instead of extending reinsurance, the governor has proposed a 20-percent premium subsidy only for those who do not receive federal tax credits under the Affordable Care Act.
Look for more on this as things develop in St. Paul. The next full economic forecast for Minnesota is due later this month, which will give the House and Senate firm numbers to put forward budget plans of their own. Then it’s off to the races on finding agreement before the Legislature adjourns in late May.
Zoo Gone Wild
Hey, did you know the Zoo Gone Wild is less than 3 weeks away? Do you have your tickets? There are still some available, just call Pine Grove Zoo at (320) 616-5595. Those who attended last year remember the laughter about the “water squirrels” … right?