Last week was eventful in St. Paul with two major floor debates. On Monday, we debated the rules that govern the House. The most controversial aspect of these rules was the proposal to require all amendments be filed 24 hours before a bill is up for possible debate. Because the majority caucus decides what bills are heard and when they are debated on the floor, this bill inherently puts members of the minority caucus at a disadvantage. If a member does not serve on a committee where a bill is heard, the only opportunity for the member to improve the bill arises through amendments on the House floor. Now, this will no longer be an option and the voices of members of the minority caucus are effectively silenced. I think this is both bad policy and bad politics for how we do business in St. Paul changing a 154 year tradition on the House floor.
On Thursday, the House debated state employee contract agreements. Among these agreements include five employee union contracts that contain a 2% cost of living increase. While the 2% cost of living increase will be applied for all employees including those who are at the very top of their pay scale and have maxed out of their salary range, more than 50% of state employees who have not maxed out will receive between an 8% and 10% pay raise over two years after their 2% across the board increase on top of step increases have been compounded. This comes at a time that the private sector has experienced no pay raises or taken a pay cut just to hold onto a job or keep their companies going. In my Housing Committee, Liz Kuoppala, Executive Director of the MN Coalition of the Homeless, stated that over the past decade, renters have seen an average 16% drop in their family income. While I applaud the work of our wonderful pubic employees, I question a 10% pay raise over two years.
On Friday morning, FFA and the Wright County Farm Bureau sponsored a shopping spree for two Wright County food shelves at the Buffalo Cub Foods for Food Awareness Month. The event is to raise awareness for the cost of food in developing countries where it takes 6 months for people to be able to buy a year’s worth of food while it takes about a month and a half in the United States. I was happy to join my fellow Wright County legislators Representative Joe McDonald of Delano and Representative David FitzSimmons of Albertville as we competed to see who could collect the most food (by weight). My FFA helper, Andrew Krause, and I won with the most pounds purchased and least money spent. Thank you to Wright County Farm Bureau President Dan Glessing and Wright County Farm Bureau Young Farmers & Ranchers Chairman Dave Marquardt for organizing the event.
I also had the opportunity on Friday to visit a group home in Monticello. I met with Tim, a disabled adult, in his home. I learned that those who work at the home make only $2.00 more per hour than what a disabled person receives to live on, which leads to high turnover for staff. Making sure we have quality care for those who are unable to live independently is important to me and I appreciated the invitation to meet with Tim and those who work with him at the group home.
Later in the day, I attended the kickoff meeting for the Minnesota Precision Manufacturing Association. This group is organizing with the Minnesota Chamber of Commerce to be a voice in St. Paul for manufacturing companies. One of their major concerns is Governor Dayton’s proposal to impose a tax on the top rate from 7.85% to 9.85% given the fact that 98% of their member businesses – three of which are located in our district - pay business income through personal tax returns.
I agree with their concerns and hope to be able to prevent such a tax increase from being enacted in Minnesota.
Thank you to constituents Daniel Giese of Maple Lake and Mike MacMullen of Buffalo as well as Wright County Commissioner Michael Potter for visiting me in St. Paul this week.
As the legislative session moves forward, I am interested in your feedback. Please feel free to contact me by e-mail at Rep.Marion.ONeill@House.MN or contact my office at 651-296-5063. You can also send me mail to my office address: 229 State Office Building, 100 Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd., St. Paul, MN 55155. Please feel free to share this e-mail with your family, friends, and neighbors so they can sign up and stay in touch.