In the late hours of June 30, we completed the final piece of the next state budget. The governor has now signed all the bills, funding is in place, a disastrous shutdown has been avoided, and Gov. Tim Walz’s emergency powers — for now — have been canceled. We still need to do more to protect ourselves from another long-term abuse of emergency power, but for now, freedom has been restored.
Frankly, the way session ended was disappointing. We could have been done in May, but Gov. Walz and the House demanded significant tax hikes for the entire legislative session — despite Minnesota having billions of dollars in cash, and despite Minnesotans making it clear they had no appetite and no need for them.
Here are some of the more noteworthy items:
Tax relief for workers and small businesses
$944 million tax bill aimed at jumpstarting the economy and helping workers and small business owners recover from COVID-19. The bill empowers Minnesotans and encourages economic growth with two top priorities for workers championed by Senate Republicans all year: full conformity to federal tax rules for the forgivable Paycheck Protection Program loans many businesses used to survive the COVID-19 pandemic, and full conformity for federal pandemic unemployment benefits up to $10,200. These are good provisions that I have long supported.
Unfortunately, I was forced to vote against this bill. In the final days of session, the bill became a place where leaders repeatedly dumped several terrible provisions that didn’t have a place anywhere else. The most egregious offense was the amendment added in the final hours that expanded Gov. Walz’s administration’s power by giving two commissioners additional emergency authority. This happened less than 24 hours after the entire legislature voted to finally reassert itself as an equal branch of government.
In addition, I was incredibly disappointed that my bill to repeal the tax on social security income was not included. This has been one of my top issues for as long as I have been in the Senate. We’ve made good progress, but we need to finish the job. I pledge to keep working on it next year — it will remain my top priority.
The next transportation budget agreement invests billions into the state’s transportation infrastructure without a gas tax, mileage tax, sales tax, or license tab fee increase. It provides $7.8 billion for state roads, including construction, development, and maintenance, plus new conveniences for drivers like allowing Minnesotans to purchase their license tabs and replacement license plates from fully-automated kiosks; creating a pilot program where Minnesotans could receive their standard driver’s license card the same day they renew their license or pass their driving test; and reopening all recently-closed exam stations to deal with the testing backlog. The bill also provides funding to improve speeds and reduce wait times at local DMV offices by adding more staff.
The bill keeps the state’s commitment to law enforcement by providing $608 million for the state patrol and capitol security, including funding to hire 63 new troopers, funding to meet the state patrol’s request for body cameras, and funding for trooper pay raises.
Supporting farm economies
The agriculture budget bill fully supports Minnesota agriculture and rural development. The legislation is focused on helping Minnesota farmers while spurring innovation in the agriculture industry. The bill allows for increased outreach to emerging farmers and provides translation services to cottage food producers. Additionally, the comprehensive budget agreement provides farm safety grants and mental health funding, provides investments to continue battling noxious weeds, gives additional resources to boost international trade, and allows for greater funding of farm-to-school programming.
The bill includes several items I worked hard on this year, such as funding for farm and agriculture mental health outreach, funding for the Dairy Development and Profitability Enhancement program, funding for grants to facilitate the start-up, modernization, or expansion of meat, poultry, egg, and milk processing facilities, and an increase in the cap for the Farm to School program to develop and enhance farm-to-school markets for Minnesota farmers by providing more fruits, vegetables, meat, grain, and dairy for Minnesota children in school and child care settings.
If you ever have any questions or feedback or if you would like to set up an opportunity to meet, contact me any time. It is a privilege to serve you!