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Letter to editor: State representative sees pros and cons from session

To the editor,
The 2019 legislative session came to a close last Saturday morning with the completion of a one-day special session. The special session was needed to pass budget bills after Gov. Walz, Senate Majority Leader Gazelka, and Speaker Hortman negotiated a global budget agreement earlier in the week.
All things considered, I am relatively pleased with how the session ended with House and Senate Republicans holding strong against a slew of proposed tax increases and radical policy initiatives from Democrats.
At the start of session, both Gov. Walz and House Democrats proposed state budgets just under $50 billion. When everything was said and done, the state budget ended up being $48 billion. Many of the extreme tax increases, more than $12 billion over four years, were defeated thanks to Senate and House Republicans.
Big ticket tax increases that were stopped include:
• 70 percent gas tax increase,
• 50 percent increase in the motor vehicle registration tax (license tabs),
• and a brand-new payroll tax on employees and employers to pay for a government-run paid sick and family leave program.
We were also able to preserve the dedicated roads and bridge funding from the existing auto parts sales tax that was under attack from Governor Walz and Democrats. This dedicated funding from an existing tax provides approximately $446 million per biennium directly to roads and bridges. House and Senate Republicans passed this dedicated funding during the previous budget cycle. Overall, the transportation bill provides billions for roads and bridges over the next two years without raising any taxes.
I am also pleased to share that we prevented a proposed $68 million cut to nursing homes and successfully defended our Second Amendment rights by defeating a pair of gun control bills.
Additionally, most controversial policy items were thrown out in negotiations thanks to Senate Republicans. Things like sexual education curriculum from Planned Parenthood, driver licenses for undocumented immigrants, national popular vote, Minnesota’s “green new deal,” single-payer health care, and expanded light-rail transit were all prevented from becoming law this session by Republicans.
This is good news.
Unfortunately, I am disappointed to share that the “sick” tax was reinstated as part of budget negotiations. The sick tax is a tax on most patient services in Minnesota.
The 2 perent tax on healthcare was supposed to sunset this year. Instead, the sunset has been removed and the rate dropped from 2 percent to 1.8 percent.
This tax directly raises healthcare costs on Minnesotans and their families. We would likely need a Republican House, Senate, and governor before this unfair and immoral tax could be reconsidered in the future.
Further, I am disappointed that road and bridge funding for small cities under 5,000 was not included in this year’s transportation bill. House Republicans had included $28 million for small cities during the last two budget cycles.
Now that session is complete, my weekly updates will likely slow down to monthly updates since there won’t be as much legislative news to share with you. While we may no longer be in session, my job as your representative does not end. Please do not hesitate to continue to reach out to me to share your thoughts and concerns.
Rep. Glenn Gruenhagen,
R-Glencoe