Last Friday, the House debated an increase in the minimum wage from $6.15 an hour to $8.50 (a 38% increase) for small employers and to $9.50 (a 55% increase) for larger employers. While the bill went from bad to slightly less bad when an amendment passed on the House floor that capped the inflationary index at 2.5% per year, I have grave concerns about the minimum wage being tied to inflation at all. Specifically, my concern is that raising wages will trigger inflation, leading to wages being hiked again, which would again cause inflation. An inflation engine would be turned on that we could not turn back off. As I talked to business owners throughout the district – especially the many family-owned restaurants – I heard their concerns about having to raise prices on customers, cutting work hours, and laying off employees. A few even said they might have to close down entirely. Those hit hardest by an increase in the minimum wage would be teenagers and young adults who work part-time while going to school. Even as I spoke with my own 19-year-old son and his friends, they expressed great concerns about having fewer job opportunities available to them as they enter into the workforce.
I’m also troubled about the effects on our nursing homes and disability group homes. I received a letter from the Long-Term Care Imperative stating, "Without a mechanism to increase reimbursement rates as the minimum wage increases, nursing homes and senior care providers will have little choice but to lay off staff, reduce hours, suspend admissions, or other cost-cutting measures, all of which will be a detriment to the seniors they serve." In the current HHS omnibus bill, nursing homes actually lose funding and if the minimum wage bill becomes law, they will be even more difficult for them to care for those who are the most vulnerable among us.
Ultimately, I voted no on imposing an increase in the minimum wage. Our businesses and workers just can’t afford it.
For my fellow supporters of the Second Amendment, I have good news! DFL House Speaker Paul Thissen announced last week that there would not be a vote on any gun control bills this session. While we celebrate this temporary victory, we still need to be mindful that gun control legislation could come up in the 2014 legislative session.
Another proposal that I’m keeping my eye on is the childcare and personal care attendant unionization bill. Last Friday, the House Ways and Means Committee voted to send the bill to the House floor. It’s unclear if it will come up for a vote in the House, but please know I adamantly oppose this legislation. We should not be forcing unionization upon small business owners or those hired in-home to care for the elderly, sick, and disabled.
Currently, the House is waiting for the House-Senate conference committee to work out the differences between the two chambers’ respective tax bills. In my opinion, the hard-working taxpayers of Minnesota will lose under either proposal or any combination of the two. However, what’s so egregious about the House tax bill is that it increases spending by $4 billion when we have $1 billion of new revenue coming in. House Democrats aren’t satisfied with $1 billion in new revenue. Instead they want to spend four times that much! Would you and your family spend four times what you had just received in a raise? I know my family would not.
I believe that instead we should be going line by line and looking for effective and efficient use of every dollar. One example of “only in government” where reducing something would cost more is from the Department of Public Safety. According to the director of the Department of Vehicle Services, MINNCORR would charge more per license plate issuing a single plate instead of issuing two. In other words, this would result in an increase in costs. The costs are estimated to be $488,000 more per year to produce one plate per customer instead of two.
Today, the House passed the so-called “bullying” bill that creates new offices and bureaucracy and imposes a $26 million per year unfunded mandates on our schools. Bullying is best addressed at the local level by principals, teachers, and parents. Each instance of bullying is unique and a one-size-fits-all solution from the state is the wrong way to go. None of the school districts in our community asked for this and believe they can handle bullying better than legislators in St. Paul. That’s why I voted no on this unfunded mandate on our schools.
In case you missed it, I was on TPT Almanac last Friday with other first-term legislators to give an update on what’s going on at the legislature.
If you haven’t done so yet, please fill out my legislative survey for constituents on my House web page.
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.