We had a busy week last week taking up several omnibus bills on the House floor.
On Monday, we debated the Health and Human Services omnibus bill. I was disappointed that a bill with an $11.212 billion price tag managed to cut $150 million from the most vulnerable among us including reducing nursing home funding by $26 million and $2 million from one of the most successful drug and alcohol treatment centers, Minnesota Adult and Teen Challenge. When we’re look at spending reductions, we should be prioritizing our most vulnerable citizens who need assistance caring for themselves and not be increasing spending on administrative costs for the Department of Human Services. Because of this bill’s misplaced spending priorities, I voted no on final passage of this bill.
The tax bill came up for debate on the House floor on Wednesday. This bill would impose $2.6 billion in tax increases on hard-working Minnesotans by raising income taxes, alcohol taxes, tobacco taxes, and sports memorabilia taxes – making Minnesota the second highest taxed state in the nation. If you add up all the fee increases that House Democrats are proposing as well, that’s $3 billion worth of new taxes and fees and $4 billion in new spending! In other words, that’s $550 for every man, woman, and child or $2,200 per family of four in the State of Minnesota. The only thing bipartisan about this tax bill was the opposition to it. All House Republicans along with four House Democrats voted no on final passage. Now, the House awaits a final tax bill to come from a House-Senate conference committee. While the Senate bill is different than the House bill – like the tax on clothing in the Senate bill – I remain strong in my resolve to protect the hard working taxpayers and will be voting against the tax bill coming out of conference committee.
The House also took up the $5.2 billion Transportation Finance omnibus bill on Wednesday. Nearly 97% of the funding for this bill is from dedicated sources like the gas tax. I had hoped to support the bill if the amendment I offered was adopted. The change I pushed for was bringing the 20% funding increase for the Met Council Transit operations budget down to 10% (which is in line with historical increases) and directing $46.9 million towards roads and bridges. By redirecting a total of $49.1 million to roads and bridges I believe we are prioritizing our aging infrastructure before we grow Met Council transit operations, expand passenger rail or pay for duplicative studies from the Humphrey School of Public Affairs. Unfortunately, my amendment was rejected and I ultimately voted NO on final passage.
While we spent quite a bit of time on the House floor debating several large omnibus bills last week, I enjoyed meeting with several school groups from the Buffalo School District. I always encourage students when they visit the Capitol to run for office when they’re older – whether that be for township board, mayor, county commissioner, state legislator, governor or bigger. Seeing students always reminds me of how hard we all must work to create a better future for them. I feel this obligation not only as a legislator, but as a mother as well.
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