Greetings from the Capitol, where next week is the last full week of the 2023 legislative session and the biggest budget bills to fund our state's next two-year cycle remain in the hands of conference committees preparing them for final passage. Here is a look at the latest from St. Paul but, first, a few other timely notes:
Happy Mother’s Day as we celebrate moms on Sunday. Thank you for all you do, and I hope you are able to enjoy time this weekend with loved ones in the presence of a patio and/or grill (pending the weather)!
Teacher Appreciation Week
Thank you to teachers in our district for all you do as we celebrate Teacher Appreciation Week to recognize your dedication to educating and preparing our children for a lifetime of success!
Minnesota’s fishing opener starts at midnight today and good luck to anyone planning to get out on the water. Count me in! On a related note, the omnibus environment package House Democrats approved in April raises fees for fishing, boating and visiting state parks even though our state has a massive surplus. Those proposed fee increases could soon be in place, pending this session's outcome.
Vets bill receives final approval
The Minnesota House this week provided final approval for an omnibus veterans and military affairs finance package, (H.F. 1937) which funds Minnesota’s National Guard members and veterans after their service to our state and nation concludes – with appropriations for the state’s next two-year budget cycle.
The final version provides $383 million in total General Fund spending for programs to help veterans over the 2024-25 biennium – a $128 million increase from current levels. In total funding, this includes $94.5 million for the Dept. of Military Affairs and $288.5 million for the Dept. of Veterans Affairs. The bill also delivers operational funding for three new veterans homes, including ones constructed in Bemidji, Montevideo and Preston.
It was good to see bipartisanship in this bill, which cleared the House 131-0, the same vote tally as for preliminary passage in mid-April.
Home stretch of session
Proposals Democrats are in the process of enacting into law before we adjourn will have severe consequences for Minnesota families, nursing homes, schools, businesses, and beyond. It is unfortunate to see such a thin majority be treated as a mandate to push extreme legislation Minnesotans are not asking for instead of working toward agreements that will address the priorities of our state and help all residents of our state.
Here are just some of the areas of concern:
Minnesota's Nursing Home industry is suffering a crisis and faces dire consequences. The House Democrat budget proposal is hundreds of millions of dollars short of meeting the urgent needs that exist to support nursing home care for seniors.
Democrats propose raising state spending by 40 percent, with nearly $10 billion in tax increases despite the record $17.5 billion budget surplus. This includes the House Democrats’ widely unpopular delivery taxes, along with billions in sales tax increases, payroll taxes, fee increases, and unnecessary tax and fee increases that take money out of the pockets of Minnesota families. Unfortunately, a full exemption of the state tax on Social Security is not in the Democrats’ plan.
The House Democrat education proposal includes dozens of new, unfunded mandates on Minnesota schools. Paired with proposed worker leave taxes, many school districts have expressed concern the majority’s budget proposal would put them into an operating deficit, even taking into account proposed formula increases. House Republicans offered an alternative education budget proposal that would have put substantial new increases toward the per-pupil formula, without the harmful mandates.
Proposed tax increases, paired with billions of dollars in new business mandates proposed by the House majority has caused significant concern among Minnesota businesses of all sizes. This includes their proposed fifth-tier income tax that would impact many small businesses that file through their personal income taxes and give Minnesota one of the highest top tax brackets in the nation. Paid leave and sick time mandates would add billions in new taxes on both employers and employees and put an additional strain on Minnesota's already tight labor force.
Watch for more from the Capitol as we get to this session’s finish line and, as always, your input is welcome.