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Legislative News and Views - Rep. Cheryl Youakim (DFL)

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Legislative Weekly Recap- March 21-27, 2017

Monday, March 27, 2017

Dear Neighbors,

As we draw closer to the April 9th recess, various House omnibus bills will be making their way to the House floor. This week, many of the committees are still meeting to complete their work. Quite often, the House will begin session in the morning, recess for committee work, and then resume floor session in the evening to vote on bills. A good source for information on these bills is the nonpartisan House Public Information Services page.  If you’re interested in watching floor session on the Minnesota channel or stream it live at If you miss a floor session or a committee hearing, you can find an audio or video copy of it in the “Multimedia Archive” section on the House website.

House Budget Targets Released

House Republicans announced their budget targets last week; the final piece needed for committees to craft the budget for the next two years. Any budget decisions should put Minnesotans first and prepare for uncertainty at the federal level. Unfortunately, the Republican budget makes deep cuts to health and human services, underfunds education, and already includes a tax giveaway for the owners of corporations.

We’re still waiting for details in most budget areas, but it is clear that the numbers in their budget bills do not add up. Minnesota’s forecast includes the assumption of inflation on the revenue side but not the expenditure side. Once the February forecast is in, the Governor sets a base budget that includes inflation and then proposes any possible cuts or new spending. This year, the Republicans have chosen to ignore inflation on the expenditure side when setting their “base” budgets leading to cuts in almost every area. The biggest cuts are to the Health and Human Services area where we fund nursing homes, care for the sick, the disabled and the most vulnerable members of our communities. Education does not fare well either. While schools have asked for a 2.5% increase per pupil on the formula for 2018 and 2019, the House GOP only funds a 1% increase. I will keep advocating for common sense and responsible proposals that invest in the areas that have made Minnesota’s economy strong.

House Republican Transportation Plan

As you know, partisan posturing prevented passage of a long-term transportation plan last biennium. We have not had a well-funded comprehensive transportation bill since 2008 when the gas tax was raised a nickel for the first time in 20 years. There has been a projected funding shortfall of nearly a billion dollars a year over the next twenty years just for basic maintenance of our current infrastructure. Republicans and Democrats acknowledge the shortfall, but how to fill the gap is where the differences lie. Republicans argue that redirecting current revenue from the general fund, which takes money from schools and nursing homes, and raising the amount of borrowing through both trunk highway and general obligation bonds will do the trick. Democrats believe a dedicated source of ongoing funding is the best solution, including a modest gas tax and the metro area transit sales tax, as a part of the discussion.

Last Thursday, the House GOP put together their Transportation Omnibus bill. Not only does it redirect general funds, it drastically cuts transit funding in the Metro area. The Metropolitan Council, charged with funding and running metro buses, have said that they will have to cut up to 17% of the bus line service as well as raise fares due to the Republican budget. These cuts will harm individuals who rely on transit to get to their jobs, school and doctor’s appointments.   The Republicans’ proposed transportation budget ignores a future funding shortfall; if this occurs, we will have to choose between cutting education and health care or funding transportation.

The Republicans’ proposed bill also removes all authority for cities, counties or Met Council from studying, planning or building any future light rail lines including the SWLRT and the Bottineu lines. It also requires the Counties Transit Investment Board (CTIB) to cover 100% of the operating cost of all light rail and bus rapid transit lines, removing the 50% state share. There is a good article in the Star Tribune summarizing why this proposal is a nonstarter. It is disappointing that the Republicans’ first proposal starts with partisan posturing from extremes rather than trying to bring something forward that can win broad bipartisan approval.

House Property Tax Proposal

Last Monday, the House Republicans released their final property tax bill. Unfortunately, the majority of the money is being spent on a tax giveaways for commercial and industrial property owners and corporations. Instead of prioritizing tax giveaways for corporations, many of the larger ones based out of state, we should be focusing on efforts to improve economic outcomes for Minnesota families.

Last Monday, we discussed the bill in the Property Taxes & Local Government Division. Although the opportunity to provide testimony was not publically posted, many people showed up to share their views. There are bad policy provisions included in the bill that take local government and school board authority away. These provisions ranges from removing the ability for a city to put a fee or tax on plastic or paper bags, to provisions removing local government aid if they put a driver diversion program in place, or donate money to the World’s Fair effort. There is also a provision that allows 10% of those voting in a city’s last election to halt the city from budgeting for their general operating level if they raise it one penny more than the previous year. This operating levy is what cities use to plow streets, provide police and fire protection maintain sewer and water service as well as their parks.

What is even more concerning is what is not included in the property tax bill. It does not include any increase for local government aid or county improvement aid. This is the aid given to the cities to help them provide core services like police, fire, sewer, water, etc. It is distributed through a formula to cities based on need versus their city’s taxable value, as well as other indicators. Some cities receive more, some less. This aid can comprise of less than 5% of a city’s budget, up to 75% of a city’s budget in some smaller rural towns. There is no increase for local government aid in this bill, even for inflation.

County aid has a similar formula. But counties can have many more unfunded mandates placed onto them from the state. Counties are required to implement many of the safety net and health and human service programs – for example, child protection, county hospitals, and many other service programs. Every year they have increased costs, but this bill would make it very difficult to raise their levy to cover those costs. The property tax bill was rolled into the full House Tax Omnibus bill last Friday by the House Tax Committee. I will have more details when the bill is taken up on the House floor.

Budget Survey

In the coming weeks, the different House finance committees will be putting together their budget bills and bringing them to the floor. Budget targets for each of these committees will be set with the state’s $1.65 million surplus in mind. I would love to hear about your priorities for the state budget. Please take a moment to fill out this survey by ranking the items listed. There is also an open comment box for you to add additional thoughts.

Constituent and Organization Visits

Visits with organizations and constituents have begun to slow down. I met with constituents that were at the Capitol with the organizations Donate to Life and the Minnesota Pediatricians. I also had the chance to visit with and give a tour to Hopkins City Administer Mike Mornson and Hopkins City Councilmember Jason Gadd (pictured below). They were both attending the annual League of Minnesota Cities Conference in St. Paul.

House Image

As always, please feel free to contact me with questions and issues. E-mail at is the best way to get in touch. If it is urgent, or you would like to schedule a meeting, please contact my office by phone at 651-296-9889.

Have a great week!