Last week, the House Democratic leadership put forward its budget framework proposal. This proposal sets the net expenditure limits for the biennial budget for the state. If you can believe it, it actually seeks to impose a higher rate of taxation on income than Governor Dayton’s plan. It seeks to raise taxes by $2.4 billion including a “temporary” tax on income over $500,000 a year. Essentially, this would create a fifth tier tax bracket on top of the fourth tier tax bracket that Governor Dayton seeks to create. While I understand that some believe that these taxes would only affect the “wealthy” in our state, they actually would hurt small businesses the hardest who file their taxes under individual returns. Our state cannot afford to impose more taxes on hard working families and businesses. Sadly, this tax is only just the tip of the iceberg of tax increases from Democrats in St. Paul. They have put forward proposals to tax beer, energy rates, snacks, auto insurances, tobacco, health insurance premiums, babysitting, surgery, and gas. We need more jobs in our state. Not more taxes.
If the tax proposals weren’t enough, the energy mandates being put forth are also enough to make Minnesota uncompetitive with our neighbors. One alarming proposal being pushed at the House seeks to have a 40% renewable energy mandate by 2030 and a 4% solar mandate by 2025. If passed, these energy mandates would be devastating to our economy and could cause electric bills to jump as much as 70% in some parts of the state. If you want to know how these energy mandates will affect your monthly bills, contact your energy co-ops.
Over the past several weeks, Democratic legislators have been pushing for gun control bills. One of the proposals that the House Public Safety Committee chairman attempted to push through was a bill that would require registration for gun owners. However, he could not convince enough of his fellow Democratic legislators to support the legislation to get it through committee. Unfortunately, the committee later passed a bill that would impose a requirement for background checks made for private sales at gun shows. As a strong supporter of the Second Amendment, please know that I will vote against restrictions and obstacles on your right to gun ownership.
As a member of the House Transportation Finance Committee, I have been keeping a close eye on transit proposals coming before the committee. Given the fact that the Northstar line has cost taxpayers $350 million in capital investment (not including operating costs) to move an average of 1,200 people per day at a rate of $292,000 per rider, I remain skeptical of light rail projects. One proposed lines – the Northern Lights Express that would go from the metro to Duluth with stops in Coon Rapids, Cambridge, and Hinckley – would cost $750 million with no estimated ridership figure. The reason put forward to build the line? To travel to the casino in Hinckley, to enjoy weekends in Duluth, and so college students could get from Minneapolis to Duluth. Or take the Gateway Express Light Rail line from Union Station in St. Paul to Woodbury. That would cost $1 billion in taxpayer dollars of capital investment money to move an estimated 9,500 to 10,000 daily riders at a cost of $100,000 per rider. Another idea is to build a Bottineau light rail line with $1 billion in capital investment to move an estimate 13,500 daily riders at a cost of 74,000 per ride from Target Field to Brooklyn Park. We have seen that these light rail lines are an inefficient use of taxpayer dollars when our real priorities in transportation should be focused on roads, bridges, and infrastructure.
As it relates to my transportation priorities, I am happy to report that expanding I-94 was voted the second highest priority for members of the House Transportation Finance Committee. With bipartisan cooperation on the federal, state, and local level, I believe we can continue to put pressure on the Minnesota Department of Transportation to get this project moving given how critical it is for our commuters and businesses.
Over the past couple weeks, a bill to unionize in-home childcare providers (small business owners) has been moving through the committee process at the House. I remain strongly opposed to this legislation. It seems wrong to me that the union dues would be deducted directly from the childcare assistance that low-income working parents need so their child can be looked after while they are at work. Please continue to contact me with your thoughts and comments on this proposal. I also encourage you to contact Governor Dayton’s office with your concerns.
In case you missed it, I was on TPT Almanac at the Capitol with Mary Lahammer. I enjoyed sitting down with her and Senator Melisa Franzen (DFL-Edina) about what’s going on at the legislature and what it’s like being a first-term legislator. You can watch the interview here.
Thank you to Dakota Communities for featuring me in their monthly newsletter. I appreciated the opportunity to visit your Buffalo home a few weeks ago.
This week, the legislature is on legislative break to observe the Easter and Passover holiday. I hope you’re able to spend some quality time with your loved ones in observance of this special time.
It was a pleasure to have Kenny Williams of Monticello, who is serving as a high school page for the House, follow me around for the day last week.
Thank you to Wayne Bauernschmitt and Lane Wilson of the Wright-Hennepin Cooperative Electric Association for visiting me in my St. Paul office last 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.