The 2023 legislative session concluded Monday and it will be most remembered for Democrats increasing state spending by more than 40 percent and raising taxes by record amounts despite a $17.5 billion state surplus.
Before we get into those details, I want to wish everyone a good Memorial Day as we celebrate our true American heroes and reach the unofficial start of summer. Thank you to the men and women of our military who made the ultimate sacrifice defending our nation and may your legacies live on.
As for news from St. Paul:
The new two-year state budget will increase spending from $52 billion to $72 billion. It also raises taxes by nearly $10 billion despite the massive surplus. This includes hiking the state’s gas tax by 3.5 cents per gallon and tying it to inflation, increasing license tab fees, adding a 50-cent delivery tax, applying a new payroll tax that will hit employers and employees alike, and more.
It was dismaying how, even with a historic surplus, we saw new taxes at every turn this session. So many short-sighted policies were passed that will only exacerbate our inflation and workforce issues to support nearly 50 percent more government. That’s not sustainable and is extremely concerning for our state’s future.
Meanwhile, Democrats failed to provide a full elimination of the state’s Social Security tax despite nearly universal support for that move. And, after Gov. Tim Walz began the session by supporting $2,000 surplus rebates for joint filers, Democrats ultimately approved just a fraction of that amount – $260 per person, or $520 per couple with an income threshold of $75,000/$150,000.
Legislative Republicans did score a big win for nursing homes by successfully negotiating for $300 million more than had Democrats proposed providing them. This added funding will help that industry at a time nursing homes have been forced to close and families have been left scrambling to find care for their loved ones.
Aside from state finances, Democrats enacted several highly controversial, partisan policy measures. This includes adopting some of the world’s most extreme abortion policy, enacting a state-funded speech registry that could undermine First Amendment rights, and declaring Minnesota a sanctuary state for transgender healthcare – for children. In addition, a Democrat provision will end electronic pull tabs as we know them, dealing a major blow to local charitable organizations.
Both House and Senate Democrats, in the final days of the session, also approved an omnibus bill with gun-control measures related to universal background checks and red flag confiscation orders. The governor has since enacted the bill into law.
This is disappointing to those of us who are strong Second Amendment supporters, but at least the final language was watered down from earlier proposals. This is thanks, in large part, to the massive outpouring of citizen input. I still object to the provisions that did pass, but the result is certainly less onerous for law-abiding citizens than what had been proposed.
I’m looking forward to spending more time back in our home district, meeting face to face with constituents now that our work in St. Paul has finished for this session. Your input is always welcome, so please stay in touch.