This week was expected to include lengthy floor sessions to take final votes on numerous budget bills with the 2023 session set to adjourn one week from this Monday.
For the most part that didn’t happen, with the majority only bringing forth a handful of smaller packages this week as the major sections of our state budget for the next two-year cycle – such as education, health, human services and taxes – remain unfinished. Here is a look at the latest from St. Paul, along with some other important notes:
Happy Mother’s Day to the mothers in our district. We can’t say “thank you” enough and I hope you are able to spend extra time in the company of loved ones as we celebrate you this holiday.
Minnesota’s fishing opener is this weekend, so good luck if you get out on the water. A lot of us look forward to this weekend for its recreational benefits, but this also is a season that provides a significant revenue boost to families and businesses in small towns throughout our state. On a quick side note: The omnibus environment package House Democrats approved in April raises fees for fishing, boating and visiting state parks. Those increases could be in place soon, depending on how the final version of that bill shakes out.
Teacher Appreciation Week
Thank you to teachers in our district for all you do as this week we recognize your dedication to educating and preparing our children for a lifetime of success.
Vets bill receives final approval
Good news: The House this week provided final approval for an omnibus veterans and military affairs finance package and we expect the governor to soon sign it into law.
As approved, the bill (H.F. 1937) 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.
House Republicans successfully added numerous provisions to the bill that were retained by the conference committee for the final bill. This includes expanding the Veteran Bonus program to veterans who currently live in Minnesota, even though they may not have lived in the state when they enlisted, as well as veterans who served in the Inherent Resolve Military campaign. Additional funding for veteran bonuses also is included in the package. The bill also increases the Veterans GI Bill tuition benefit from $3,000 to $5,000 per year, and ups the lifetime benefit from $10,000 to $15,000.
The final bill cleared the House with sweeping support on a 131-0 vote.
Home stretch of session
We are entering the final week of the 2023 legislative session, with the biggest pieces of the House Democrat plan to increase state spending by 40 percent and raise taxes $9.5 billion at a time we have a $17.5 billion surplus still unresolved.
Aside from those top-line numbers, many major concerns remain surrounding the Democrats’ proposed budget and severe consequences it will mean for Minnesota families, nursing homes, schools, businesses, and beyond. 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 proposal is hundreds of millions of dollars short of meeting the urgent needs that exist among our nursing homes and seniors.
House Democrats propose nearly $10 billion in tax increases despite the record $17.5 billion budget surplus. This includes their 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 Democrat 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 put forward by Democrats.
Gun-control provisions (universal gun registry and red flag confiscation orders) remain part of the discussion in the public safety bill Democrats are assembling. I strongly oppose these anti-Second Amendment proposals and here is a link to the conference committee that currently is working on this bill, putting it in finished form.
Proposed tax increases, paired with billions of dollars in new business mandates proposed by Democrats have caused significant concern from 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.
Until next time, happy Mother’s Day, good luck fishing and watch for more from the House as we come down to the wire in the 2023 session.