Last week we received good news from the Minnesota Office of Management and Budget. Our projected deficit for the next biennium shrunk from $1.1 billion to $627 million – an improvement of $463 million. We also learned that our structural balance for the 2016-2017 fiscal years is looking strong with s projected $234 million if we stay on the same trajectory. According to Dr. Tom Stinson, the chief economist for the State of Minnesota, business income is leading the way in growth. I take that as a sign that we do not need to impose further tax increases on our families and our businesses. If we make drastic changes to our tax system like Governor Dayton is proposing, it will slow the growth we’ve seen and likely reverse it. With this good budget news, I’m hoping Governor Dayton will reconsider his tax proposals.
However, it’s not just the tax proposals that give me concern for our business community. One bill that has been moving through the committee process is a minimum wage increase. This legislation would increase the minimum wage to $10.55 an hour plus indexed for inflation. I’ve talked to several small business owners in my community who are concerned this mandated increase in the minimum wage could force them to close their businesses altogether and that’s BEFORE they calculate how the proposed expanded sales tax, the business-to-business tax, or the tax on the a new top bracket would affect them. Recently, I was quoted by the Associated Press with my comments on how the minimum wage would affect small businesses. You can read that story here.
Another proposal put forth by some DFL legislators is to increase the renewable energy mandate to 40% by 2030 – up from 25% by 2025. On top of that, they want to impose a 10% solar mandate. This will make energy costs skyrocket for every family and business in Minnesota. Perhaps you just simply drive yourself to work every day. The cost of that will be more for you now under a bill to impose a five cent per gallon gas tax effective in October and then another four and a half cent increased phased in by August of 2017. Let’s not forget the gas tax passed in 2008 just finished being phased in! If you thought by that point that energy costs weren’t high enough, you should also know that there is a proposal to increase the mandate on bio-diesel. If you’re a business that transports any goods through freight or trucks, you’ll have to pay more.
It’s hard not to see a freight train coming at all small business owners with the myriad of tax and mandate proposals being put forward in the legislature. As a small business owner myself, I want to assure you that I will fight against adding to the already-heavy burden Minnesota businesses have to deal with on an every-day basis.
The House is taking up the Health Insurance Exchange right now. I expect this to be a long debate that will go for several hours. If you want to watch the debate, you can watch online by clicking here and then clicking on “Live Video” option under the “House of Representatives” column.
On Friday, I had the privilege of touring two schools in our community. First, I visited St. Francis Catholic School. I want to thank Father Hennen and Principal Alisa Louwagie the students and the faculty there for their warm welcome. I’m excited to hanging artwork from the school in my office.
Later, I toured Buffalo Community Middle School. Thank you to Principal Lubben for taking such great care of our students. “Doing what’s best for our kids” is event painted on the school walls!
On Saturday, I held a series of town-hall events in Buffalo, Monticello, and Maple Lake with Senator Bruce Anderson. I appreciated hearing your thoughts, comments, and concerns about issues before the legislature. Thank you to everyone who came. Your input is important for me as I do my best to represent your voice in St. Paul.
Thank you Mary Wetter of the Wright County Soil & Water Conservation District as well as Monticello constituents Dan Mielke, Steve Johnson, and Bruce Hamond for meeting with me in my office 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.