My top priorities in this 2023 session were to find significant and permanent tax relief so our overtaxed citizens could keep more of their hard-earned money in their own pockets, restore safety to our communities, and focus our education system to address the fact that Minnesota students are slipping further and further behind in reading and math.
The end of the 2023 legislative session has arrived. While there is some good news to report from the final days of session, most of it in my opinion continues to be bad. By and large, I did not see the priorities above addressed. A review of some of the positives and negatives can be found below.
ALBERT LEA BONDING PROJECTS APPROVED
The City of Albert Lea received welcome news as a capital investment (bonding) bill passed containing $9 million for full funding to finish the dredging of Fountain Lake. $2 million for a start up project for the Albert Lea wastewater treatment plant was also included.
Maintaining our state’s infrastructure is a core function of government. We have not had a bonding bill for 3 years that addresses this need. I voted for the main $1.5 billion bonding bill. I did not vote for the $810 million additional cash bonding bill, although it passed just the same. Being just cash, it only needed a simple majority to pass.
It might seem a bit strange that I voted against this cash bill, since I have been advocating for a cash bill all along. Considering our huge surplus, we should not be putting money on credit, but paying cash for this year’s bonding projects. Why charge on credit what we can pay for? Unfortunately, I do not believe this cash bonding bill was a responsible bill. I believe bonding should be used for core government needs such as government building upkeep, water infrastructure, clean water, and roads and bridges. This cash bonding bill was chockfull of items that should be paid for by the local communities that want them - not by all of us throughout the state. These “fluff projects” include things like skate parks, ice gardens, community centers, private ski hills, ice arenas, and the like. I do not believe these types of projects are appropriate for a state bonding bill.
THANKS TO REPUBLICAN PERSISTENCE, NURSING HOMES RECEIVE MUCH NEEDED FUNDING
Why is it that the Democrat majority can find over a hundred million dollars of ongoing funding to pay for healthcare for illegal immigrants, but they only came up with $3.9 million for our elders who are facing a nursing home crisis? Fifteen nursing homes across the state have closed their doors over the last two years, and precious family members are being sent to live miles away from their families in order to get care. Despite their $72 billion budget, the DFL couldn’t even find a couple hundred million dollars to stop more nursing homes from shutting their doors. That has been very frustrating to me!
My Republican colleagues and I, both House and Senate, have been advocating long and hard all session for significant funding to help this existential nursing home crisis. We struck a late session deal and secured an additional $300 million of one time funding for nursing homes. This is just a Band-Aid, and more will need to be done in both reform and funding. However, this funding will be a welcome relief for these crises. I happily voted yes on this bill!
FINAL TAX BILL HURTS CHARITIES AND INCREASES TAXES BY BILLIONS
With the record $17.5 billion surplus, I believe Minnesotans deserved meaningful tax cuts and refund checks. Times are difficult for family budgets right now, stretched thin with high food costs, high energy costs, and high costs for everything. It’s hard for families to afford things like youth sports for their kids, or even a night out to go bowling. People deserve to keep more of their money in their own pockets. Sadly, aside from a partial cut for Social Security taxes, this did not happen.
This $3 billion tax bill includes $2.2 billion of tax increases. It includes a multitude of refundable new or expanded tax credits for low-income families, and $260 rebate checks (with an income cap) for individuals and their dependents. Most of this bill does not contain true tax cuts. It takes income from some families and individuals and gives it to other families and individuals.
The sad part is, this legislation is billed as helping people with things like expanded child tax credits, renters’ credits, non-citizens receiving tax credits, etc. However, with the $9.7 billion overall tax increase passed this session, including very regressive taxes like the gas tax, vehicle tab increases, a new delivery tax, increased sales tax and housing tax in the metro area, and more, these people will be lucky to end up with any extra money at all. This tax bill puts money into one pocket, and then all of these other tax increases will pull it out of the other pocket. It’s like a big Ponzi scheme!
Charitable gambling from electronic pull tabs is a critical revenue source for local charities, veteran organizations, youth sports teams, and the Main Street businesses they partner with. This tax bill makes critical changes to e-pulltabs, which will be devastating for our local charities. By making this change, there is little doubt these organizations are going to take a huge and unnecessary financial hit.
This is a highly disappointing tax bill. There were a lot of reasons to vote no on this bill, including the fact that it increases taxes when we have an almost $18 billion surplus. That is ridiculous. I voted no.
There were a number of other omnibus bills that passed this last week of session, including a transportation bill and a health bill. Though the bills that passed contained some good provisions, all of them grow government exponentially, and most contain tax increases. I see many of the items in them as hurting our state and local communities, and I will not do that. I will also add that the health finance bill is 845 pages long and was released at 11:55 PM the night before we were to vote on it. There was no time for me to read that bill and I will not vote for bills if I have no idea what’s in them.
There is not enough space in this update for me to comment on all of these bills. If you have specific questions about them, please let me know.
A FINAL RECAP OF THE 2023 SESSION
This session will be remembered as the time that Democrats, in complete control of state government, rammed through $9.5 billion in tax increases despite having a record $17.5 billion surplus. They went on a spending spree, blowing out the budget to $72 billion (a 40% increase from last biennium!) and we taxpayers get to foot the bill.
I was disappointed to say the least.
UPCOMING EMAIL UPDATES
With the 2023 legislative session now ended, my weekly email updates will become less frequent. I will be sure to keep you updated with any pertinent legislative news, and possibly a few local events of interest. Thank you for subscribing. It is a pleasure to serve you!