Last week I attended the ceremonial bill signing of a bipartisan mental health package. As the Senate’s lead negotiator of this important bill, I was honored to be on-hand for the historic moment.

It was the culmination of work over many months by members of both parties to increase access and provide more support for families struggling with mental health challenges.

The issue was close to my heart and I was proud that we were able to find common ground to ensure those facing mental health crises have access to quality care when they need it. It wasn’t the only bipartisan accomplishment reached, but you may not have heard about those victories through all the noise of the session.

The Legislature reached an agreement on several other important issues for Minnesotans and employers struggling with inflation and years of pandemic restrictions. We extended reinsurance to lower health insurance costs, invested in broadband for those most in need of access, replenished the Unemployment Trust Fund and stopped a massive tax hike that would have led to increased costs for consumers, and passed a veterans bill that gives bonuses to those who served in the Global War on Terror.

We also passed a frontline worker bonus program that provides a bonus for workers impacted by the pandemic. To figure out if you are eligible and to apply, visit https://frontlinepay.mn.gov.

Unfortunately, the biggest goals for the session were left undone.

The massive surplus in government bank accounts wasn’t mirrored in the bank accounts of Minnesotans. My colleagues in the Senate and I proposed returning the surplus to taxpayers and passing permanent ongoing tax relief with a rate cut for all taxpayers as well as the full elimination of the tax on Social Security benefits.

People are struggling with inflation, high taxes, and rising costs. Minnesotans deserve to see relief in every single paycheck.

Governor Tim Walz and the Democrats in the Legislature disagreed and preferred spending a majority of the surplus.

We came close to agreement in the closing weeks of session with a negotiated framework that would have returned some of the surplus, spent on limited and targeted priorities, and left significant resources on the bottom line for next year’s Legislature. It wasn’t everything everyone wanted, but it provided a framework for committees to use to reach consensus.

The tax committee was able to reach an agreement, but the Democrats in the House would not pass a tax relief bill unless we agreed to a number of their outlandish and extreme spending proposals first.

The House’s insistence on including those controversial policies, spending outside the agreed-upon framework, and their unwillingness to focus on consensus items is why we were unable to strike a deal in nearly every issue area.

In one case, the conference committee was able to reach an agreement but Governor Walz personally called the DFL House Chair and told him to kill the deal. This “pre-veto” of a legislative bill, the holding the tax bill hostage, and shifting goal posts are precisely what drive people away from politics and Minnesotans deserve more from their leaders.

So what happens now? The legislative session is over. The government surplus stays put. And Minnesotans now have an opportunity to weigh in with what they think should happen to the surplus.

Next year’s legislative leaders and governor can spend the next few months listening to the concerns and priorities of Minnesotans and they can choose between a vision that would provide ongoing financial relief for families and a vision that would grow the size of government.

My goals remain the same: delivering real tax relief to Minnesotans, ensuring safe communities by supporting law enforcement and getting tough on criminals, and empowering parents in their child’s education.


Rich Draheim, R-Madison Lake, represents District 20 in the Minnesota Senate.

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