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Legislative News and Views - Rep. Jeff Dotseth (R)

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Legislative update

Friday, May 5, 2023

Dear Neighbor,

Let’s start today’s newsletter with a quick shout-out to everyone who made this week’s open house celebrating the new hangar at Cloquet Carlton County Airport a great success. As a pilot myself, I have a strong appreciation for how vital this airport is to our area. It is an asset that helps drive our local economy, attracting international players, while also serving as a valuable tool for colleges in our region. Congratulations to everyone who made this expansion possible and I look forward to seeing positive impacts it will bring this part of the state and northern Minnesota in general. Thank you for the opportunity to speak to those who attended this event and voice my support.

As for notes from the Capitol:

The final stretch

With just two full weeks remaining before the 2023 session is set to adjourn, things are about to get serious at the Capitol.

Conference committees have been working this week to iron out differences in finance packages that received preliminary approval in both the House and the Senate. Once those bills are in order they will come back around for votes on final approval in order to have a new two-year state budget in place before the Legislature adjourns later this month.

I’m receiving many questions about what remains on the table for enactment and here is a snapshot:

Where’s the surplus?

Minnesota’s February economic forecast projected a $17.5 billion surplus. Meaningful tax relief that should have been a given this session is giving way to Democrat spending increases.

Together, the budget bills House Democrats propose increase state spending by 40 percent (from $52 billion to $72 billion) and actually raise taxes by $9.5 billion in this time of surplus. Just some of the tax increases could include a 75-cent delivery tax on all retail deliveries and prepared food, a massive hike in license tab fees, and even raising fees for outdoors activities like fishing and boating.

I disagree with making life more expensive for Minnesotans. We should be delivering meaningful tax relief at a time when family budgets already are hurting and our state is flush with revenue.

Nursing home funding/Social Security cut

Despite this historic spending increase that’s proposed, House Democrats are under-funding nursing homes and fail to fully eliminate the state tax on Social Security.

With a massive surplus and a record budget total, the lack of support for our seniors by helping nursing homes is concerning – especially during a long-term care crisis. Just .03 percent of the majority’s $72 billion is dedicated to long-term care. We can and must do better.

As for Social Security, Minnesota remains one of just 11 states that still taxes this income for seniors. A full repeal would give nearly half a million Minnesotans an average of $1,276 in relief – a major help for people who are struggling to pay for their groceries, afford the utility bill and stay in their homes.

First/Second Amendment

Democrat provisions that would compromise our First and Second Amendment rights remain in the mix for enactment.

One measure related to the First Amendment would create a government database of perceived “hate incidents” that fall short of criminal acts. This proposal gives the state authority to collect data about crimes of bias that have not been reported to law enforcement. I have strong concerns over how this may impact our free speech and how the data potentially could be used.

As for the Second Amendment, I have significant concerns over the universal background check and red flag confiscation orders House Democrats are proposing. We need to provide people with the help they need to properly address their particular situation – keeping them and the people around them safe.

More extreme abortion policy

Legislation House Democrats approved earlier this session to give our state some of the world’s most radical abortion policy already was enacted. But more concerning measures on this issue remain subjects of a conference committee. The health bill fails to protect minors by removing the parental notification requirement and guarantees their right to an abortion. The bill also This bill also decimates protections in Minnesota’s Born Alive Infants Protection Act, even though state officials indicate five infants were born in 2021 after surviving an abortion attempt.

Concerning details in worker leave bill

It’s not an omnibus bill, but House Democrats approved legislation Tuesday which will hurt employee wages and damage businesses by establishing a mandatory paid leave program funded by a new tax on employers and workers at a time the state has a $17.5 billion surplus.

Instead of providing real solutions, this bill would deal another major blow to Main Street businesses and workers throughout Minnesota. People already are struggling in today’s economy, and I am concerned this costly burden would be more than many can handle.

The program (H.F. 2) would cost billions of dollars to get up and running and require as many as 400 new full-time government employees to develop and administrate. This applies to virtually every industry in the state – private employers, nonprofits, cities, counties, and school districts – despite objections. It would be funded with a $2.9 billion tax on employers and employees and expands employers’ leave obligations to part-time and temporary employees.

All this, while the Minnesota Chamber of Commerce reports 80 percent of its members already provide paid family leave.

Unlike the Federal Family and Medical Leave Act, which only applies to employers with 50 or more employees, this program would apply to all employers, including those with only one employee. Employees can stack leave together, allowing for up to 24 weeks of paid time off per year.

On the other hand, Republicans have developed a plan which takes a different approach, providing a small-business tax credit to incentivize employers to join the plan. The key difference is the minority’s plan provides paid family and medical leave benefits for employees without burdensome mandates and new taxes.

The House Republican proposal provides a small business tax credit to incentivize employers to join the plan. Minnesotans may opt into the program for $5 per week if an employer does not join by using the parameters of the state’s paid leave policy, leveraging the power of the state’s 10s of thousands of employees. The House Republican option is backed by an insurance company, so taxpayers will not be expected to cover the costs of program shortfalls or losses.

The House Republican plan was offered as an amendment to the Democrat bill on Tuesday. House Democrats voted down that offering before approving their own bill, sending it to the Senate for action.

Until next time, have a good weekend and please let me know how I can help.