As I've written previously, this is the point of the legislative session at which large, "omnibus" bills on a variety of topics are being brought to the House floor by the Republican majority. I wrote about the omnibus Jobs & Energy bill, which passed last Wednesday, in a previous e-update, and you can learn more about the bills in several other areas below. But the common theme is a lack of significant investments - despite a $2 billion surplus - accompanied by major cuts and budget gimmicks. All of this is driven by the tax bill that the Republican leadership in the House has proposed.
Tax Bill on the House Floor This Coming Week
The tax bill that’s moving through the House contains $2 billion in tax cuts targeted at corporate special interests. The centerpiece would permanently eliminate the business property tax, which would cost $5 billion over the next eight years. If it were fully phased in this coming biennium, it would result in our state running a $2 billion deficit rather than a surplus. Owners of large commercial property - skyscrapers and big-box retail - would be the biggest beneficiaries, with relatively little benefit to small business.
By contrast, the tax cuts for middle-class families and individuals are small - $70 a year for a single filer making $70,000 - and temporary. Unlike the business tax cuts, they disappear after two years. Even worse for our communities, the bill slashes "local government aid" to St. Paul and several other cities to a level far below the per-capita amount provided to other towns and cities. This would lead either to property tax increases, to cuts in services, or - most likely - to both.
E-12 Education Last Saturday
$2 billion in tax cuts leaves little room for expanded investment in crucial needs. We saw that on Saturday, when the omnibus Education bill passed on a nearly party-line vote. The bill increases school funding by only 0.6% - below both the rate of inflation and the rate of enrollment growth. As I've heard from many constituents, local school districts around the state will be forced to make significant cuts to teacher and staff budgets, and increase class sizes. Among the many disappointments is the bill's paltry investment in early learning and development, which has such a payoff for our society and the children involved.
Many thanks to the constituents who came to Saturday's rally in support of education! Please continue to stay involved; much can - and must - change before the session ends.
Environment and State Government Last Friday
On Friday, both the omnibus environment bill and omnibus state government bill passed the House, again on nearly party-line votes, with my DFL colleagues and me opposed. Both continue drastic cuts to vital areas of state government.
The environment bill shifts nearly $60 million out of the fund we use to clean up closed landfills, takes money from the school lands trust, and gives up on fighting aquatic invasive species by cutting millions from prevention efforts. The bill also significantly overhauls the Pollution Control Agency’s Citizen Board, sharply tilting the balance of say in the state’s permitting process from the public to corporate special interests.
The state government bill shifts millions out of state pension funds, creates unfunded burdens, and eliminates limits on campaign spending and contributions from PACs and lobbyists. One of the many disappointing moments in the debate came when the majority voted down language that would simply have required greater disclosure of campaign spending - a change supported by the vast majority of Minnesotans.
Jobs & Growth Last Wednesday
Again, click here to read about the omnibus jobs & energy bill, which passed last Wednesday.
Transportation Last Tuesday
On Tuesday the House transportation plan was passed. The plan doesn’t include the dedicated funding increase requested by the Governor. Instead, House Republicans funded their plan with billions of dollars in debt and $3 billion more in shifts from the state general fund, which is used to pay for education, health care, and other state needs. At a time of surplus, our state has never borrowed so much money for transportation nor diverted so much from other needs - the result of which can be seen in the rest of this update.
The Week Ahead
This week is busy with more of these omnibus bills from the House Republican majority. Today (Monday), we will hear a higher education bill that will raise tuition and lead to more student debt. On Tuesday, among other bills we will hear the health and human services bill which eliminates the MinnesotaCare health insurance program, among other devastating cuts. On Wednesday, we are scheduled to hear the tax bill discussed above. I'll work to continue to keep you updated...
Please don’t hesitate to contact me with your questions and concerns.
State Representative, District 64B
321 State Office Building