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Status of state surplus and more as session hits home stretch

Friday, May 5, 2023

 

By Rep. Jeff Dotseth

Conference committees have been working 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 the current lay of the land 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 slam dunk 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 families and business already are struggling 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 spending 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 budget 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. More measures concerning abortion remain subjects of a conference committee, including a health package which fails to protect minors by removing the parental notification requirement and guaranteeing their right to an abortion. This bill also decimates protections in Minnesota’s Born Alive Infants Protection Act, even though state officials report five infants were born in 2021 after surviving an abortion attempt.

We’ll see how this unfolds between now and the Legislature’s adjournment later this month. Let’s hope conference committees do good work so these budget bills come back in better shape to help all Minnesotans instead of fueling more partisan division.

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