Following a one-day special session last month, Gov. Tim Walz recently signed into law Minnesota’s new, two-year state budget.
While I would’ve preferred a more transparent process, the session’s outcomes were mostly positive, as much of what was accomplished in this budget will benefit Carver County and our state.
I appreciate both sides compromising despite stark differences, and I believe many of this session’s most problematic proposals were avoided.
One of the major highlights is that the proposed $12 billion tax increases that were center stage this year won’t be going into law. These would’ve harmed families and small businesses, and I’m glad these huge new tax increases won’t be happening.
I’m especially pleased that no transportation tax increases were passed. This means there will be no 20 cent per gallon (70% increase) gas tax hike, no vehicle sales tax increase, and no license tab fee increases.
To fund transportation, auto parts sales tax revenue already collected will continue being dedicated to roads and bridges. With this funding mechanism, higher gas taxes aren’t necessary to fund transportation infrastructure improvements.
The Minnesota Legislature also stopped a proposal to cut nursing home funding by $68 million, which would’ve devastated facilities’ budgets and jeopardized care for older Minnesotans. We also cut middle-class Minnesotans’ income taxes and approved federal tax conformity, meaning more money in people’s pockets and fewer headaches next tax season.
Minnesota’s public schools will receive 2% per-pupil funding increases each of the next two years, making available more resources to help our students succeed in the classroom. This comes alongside $90 million to help address rising special education costs and additional funding for school districts’ safety needs.
In addition, Minnesota’s reinsurance plan was extended, which builds on progress made through a program that has proven effective in lowering health insurance premiums the last two years. More needs to be done to combat high insurance rates for those buying their own health insurance, but this action represents a positive step in that direction.
The legislature also passed distracted driving legislation that will take effect Aug. 1. We heard many emotional testimonies from families who have lost loved ones due to distracted driving. The new law will help reduce those occurrences.
Despite the positives mentioned above, the legislative session also produced a few negative outcomes.
One of the year’s most disappointing outcomes is the continuation of the sick tax. I heard from residents on both sides of this issue. Extending the sick tax raises the cost of Minnesotans’ healthcare, making every trip to the doctor more expensive and disproportionately hurting those requiring the most treatment and facing already high medical bills.
The sick tax was scheduled to expire at year’s end, and I believe not letting that happen was a major missed opportunity to reduce the healthcare costs.
Finally, I authored measures to provide funding for two infrastructure projects important to Carver County. The first would’ve provided funding to help Chanhassen upgrade a 1.5-mile stretch of Lyman Boulevard, and the other would’ve provided funding to assist Carver County construct necessary infrastructure and amenities to develop Lake Waconia Regional Park.
Working with both sides of the aisle to gather support, I pushed hard for these bills this year. However, because the Legislature didn’t pass a bonding bill, most local infrastructure projects didn’t receive any state funding.
Next session is a non-budget year, in which a greater focus will be on bonding. When that time comes, I will continue advocating for these and other key local projects, and I remain optimistic we can secure the necessary funding.
Ultimately, I believe 2019 resulted in numerous positive laws and policies to benefit our area and state. Minnesota families already pay high tax burdens, and avoiding most large tax increase proposals stands out as a victory to me. And yet, at the same time, I’m proud we were still able make investments in our future.
With my first session wrapping up, I’m reminded what an extraordinary privilege it is to serve our community in St. Paul. As always, please reach out and contact me if you have any questions about anything that happened at the Capitol this year.