Dear Friends and Neighbors,
Today we wrapped up a busy week at the Capitol in which we spent long days and nights discussing and voting on budget bills. We debated the agriculture and transportation omnibus bills today, and will resume legislative activity on Monday.
The major theme of Democrats’ budget bills has been tax and spend, with their budget proposal including over $12 billion in new taxes over the next four years. I have many concerns with the omnibus budget bills that were passed by the House this week, and will advocate for changes as they move through conference committee negotiations. Here’s a rundown of the important components of each bill.
On Tuesday, the House approved the education omnibus bill. Education spending is the largest portion of the state budget and has steadily grown for years. This bill spends an additional $900 million, with most of that funding coming from taking more than $400 million from road and bridge funding and a 70% gas tax increase. I’m pleased by funding formula increases to support our teachers and school budgets, but I'm disappointed that this bill widens the unfair per pupil funding gap between rural and metro school districts. For example, here is the funding increase differential between what Minneapolis schools receive and schools in our district:
Red Wing: 19 percent less
Goodhue: 26 percent less
Lake City: 19 percent less
Wabasha: 8 percent less
Cannon Falls: 19 percent less
The bill also contains numerous controversial policy provisions. Most alarming are the measures that include controversial sexual education requirements for elementary students. The bill also lowers teacher licensing standards, eliminates teacher licensing safeguards designed to keep our students safe, eliminates early learning scholarships, and requires 6-year-olds to enter school.
These glaring flaws aside, I’m pleased to see mental health grant increases to give struggling students the help they need. I hope we can ensure this beneficial program receives this critical funding in a final compromise.
Wednesday the House passed the jobs and energy omnibus bill. This bill implements over $2 billion in new taxes by taking money from every Minnesota employer and employee, while creating 400 new government jobs to administer the new, proposed regulations. It also includes energy mandates that will drive up families’ electric bills and endanger our energy grid’s reliability. Further, I don’t believe the bill goes far enough to help promote jobs and economic development in greater Minnesota.
Nonetheless, this budget bill contains some good measures that I’m proud to support, such as job training grants, broadband funding, Youth Skills Training programs in our schools, and grants to spur innovation and support entreprenuers.
Health and Human Services
On Thursday, the House approved Democrats’ 1,100-page health and human services omnibus bill. This legislation raises healthcare costs by reinstating the provider tax, adding $2.5 billion to the cost of healthcare.
It also includes changes to nursing home reimbursement rates, which would result in $68 million dollars of cuts. I’m very concerned about the harmful impact these cuts will have on nursing homes in our area.
In addition, the bill fails to address widespread fraud in Minnesota’s Child Care Assistance Program and doesn’t extend Minnesota's reinsurance program, which could cause premium rates to skyrocket next year.
Last night the House passed the taxes omnibus bill, which contains a number of new taxes totaling more than $3 billion over the next four years. This includes regressive taxes that disproportionately impact middle and lower income Minnesotans as well as new taxes on businesses that will increase the cost of goods and services and hurt wage growth.
There are three proposals in the tax bill that I do support: further reductions in social security income tax, increases in the school building ag credit from 40% to 70%, and reinstating the Angel Investment Tax Credit to support new business creation in our state.
These omnibus budget bills create massive new government programs and mandates without accountability or improved efficiency in programs we currently have. The only way to pay for these proposals is to raise taxes on Minnesotans by over $12 billion during the next four years. The bottom line is this: we shouldn’t be considering these excessive tax increases when our state has an over $1 billion budget surplus and when government lacks the discipline to rein in the well documented waste, fraud and abuse in many public programs.
Click here to watch a video I recorded earlier today on the budget bills we're considering.
At the Capitol
Had the opportunity to discuss the health and human services bill with this group of seniors from Goodhue County. They shared their disappointment with the nursing home cuts and with Democrats’ inaction addressing fraud in public programs.
Discussing nursing home cuts with Red Wing’s St. Brigid’s nursing home CEO Jake Goering.
The NCAA Men’s Hockey Championship Trophy – won by the UMD Bulldogs – visited the Capitol.
Staying in Touch
If you ever have questions or concerns regarding any issue, please contact me. I can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 651-296-8635.
Have a great week,