The 2013 legislative session finally came to an end just about a week ago. Unfortunately, most of the good news I have about the session is that it’s over.
The DFL majorities succeeded in imposing a $2.1 billion tax increase on hard-working Minnesotans, or an average of $390 more from every man, woman and child in Minnesota. This new tax increase will make Minnesota’s income tax rate the second highest in the nation for comparative income and the fourth highest percentage in the nation. Some of the features of the new DFL tax increase include creating a new fourth tier income tax bracket that will hit small businesses, $314 million in increased sales taxes on commercial warehousing and storage, higher sales taxes for individuals on all internet purchases, $1.60 tax increase on cigarettes, and $404 million in higher business taxes. While all of these tax increases are troubling to me, I’m particularly concerned about the tax on commercial warehousing and storage, electronic and commercial equipment repair and maintenance, and telecommunications equipment. Governor Dayton in the past few days expressed interest in repealing this tax next session. I hope to take the governor on his word when we come back for the 2014 legislative session.
The other big bill that we debated in the last few days of session was the forced unionization of childcare providers, the owners of their own in-home small business. Even in a Democrat-controlled legislature, this legislation had a bumpy path. At one point, it had failed to pass a Senate committee, but was resurrected days later when a DFL senator apparently had some sort of epiphany that led her to switch her vote. When the House first began debating this bill late in the early hours of Sunday morning, House Republican Leader Kurt Daudt had moved to table the bill – a procedural move we had hoped would kill the bill. All 61 Republican legislators stood in support of the motion. At that point, DFL House Speaker Paul Thissen turned his chair away from the Republicans and ignored our calls to be recognized. While Republican legislators stood for several minutes in support of the motion, DFL legislators who had been missing from the floor wandered back to their seats in order to secure enough votes to block our motion. One long time Star Tribune reporter even commented that she had never seen a Speaker hold open a procedural vote that long before. That should tell you about badly the allies of the DFL-controlled legislature wanted this bill to pass. On the last day of session, before we had finalized the budget, the House Democrats passed the bill 68-66. If any single one of those Democrats who had voted yes and changed their vote, the bill would have been defeated. Thank you to all of the childcare providers who came to the Capitol to voice their opposition to this bill. I was proud to stand with you. Now that Governor Dayton has signed the legislation, we expect a lawsuit to be filed in federal district court to challenge the constitutionality of the new law as it conflicts with federal labor law.
Some of the other pieces of legislation we took up in the final days of session were the K-12 Education bill and the Public Safety & Judiciary bill. The K-12 bill spends $15.6 billion over the next biennium, an increase of $162.3 million over FY12/13 spending and includes $134 million for All-Day Kindergarten. The Public Safety & Judiciary bill spends $1.928 billion over the next biennium, an increase of $102 million over the base. I have been a strong advocate for increasing the number of public defenders so citizens’ rights and liberties are defended. Protecting our public and making sure our citizens have access to justice is a core function of our government and I was happy to support this bill and voted for it.
One bill that I co-authored was just signed into law that will help those of us in subcontracting business. HF644 / SF561 will eliminate the requirement for subcontractors to carry liability insurance for companies other than their own. Now, each subcontractor will be responsible just for their own insurance and liability on a job site, making business more fair and reasonable. The bill was a bipartisan effort and I am grateful to Rep. Atkins for carrying the bill.
While we saw many bad bills pass this legislative session, we had a few victories. We did not see a 45% hike in the minimum wage plus indexed to inflation, no gun control bills, no gas tax increase, no metro transit sales tax increase, and no “bullying” bill that would have unduly and unnecessarily burdened our school districts financially. The Democrats have already promised to work hard to pass these initiatives next session.
I’ve enjoyed being able to be back in our community since the legislature adjourned on May 20th at Midnight. On May 21, I had the privilege of speaking to the Monticello Chamber of Commerce. The next day, I had the opportunity to visit the Rotary Club of Buffalo. On May 23, I was thrilled to be able to speak with sixth grade students at Buffalo Middle School to talk about my experience as a legislator. I have great hope for our future after speaking to this insightful and ambitious group. Just today, I came back to the Capitol just to speak to a school group of middle school students from Monticello.
In case you missed it, I had the privilege of speaking with Sarah Barchus from the University of Minnesota on my being a first-term legislator. The story was printed in the Monticello Times.
Now that the legislative session is over, I’ll be back in the district much more regularly. You can still 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.