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Legislative News and Views - Rep. Sondra Erickson (R)

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Legislative Update from Rep. Sondra Erickson

Friday, May 3, 2019

Dear Friends and Neighbors,

We continued work this week by passing the remaining budget and finance bills. Like last week, I was unable to support the majority of these omnibus finance bills due to the massive spending, excessive taxes, and controversial provisions that were included.

Transportation

On Monday, House Democrats approved their Transportation bill (House File 1555) which increases the gas tax by 20 cents per gallon – a 70% increase – and in total raises taxes by more than $4 billion dollars over four years.

The bill did not receive a single vote from House Republicans.

The massive gas tax increase included in the Democrats’ transportation bill vaults Minnesota all the way to the fourth highest in the nation. Frustratingly, instead of innovating and prioritizing existing funds to fix our roads and bridges, Democrats continue to push for excessive tax and fee increases that will hurt Minnesota families.

In addition to the 20 cents per gallon increase, the House Democrat Transportation bill increases the vehicle registration tax, the metro sales tax, and the new vehicle sales tax. Further, the bill transfers statutorily dedicated auto parts sales tax funds — $417 million in 2020-21 – into the general fund. This reverses the major investments House & Senate Republicans made during the last biennium to fund road and bridge infrastructure without a gas tax increase.

I am hopeful that the Republican majority in the Senate will hold firm on this and prevent such a massive gas tax increase from taking effect. Stay tuned on this as it is sure to be a sticking point in final negotiations between the Senate, House, and Governor Walz.

Public Safety

Early Tuesday morning, around 1:30 am, Democrats approved their public safety omnibus bill. The legislation reduced sentencing and penalties for criminals and included two extremely controversial gun control bills. The bill passed on a 70-64 vote, but had bipartisan opposition with 5 Democrats voting against the bill.

As a strong, life-long defender of the 2nd Amendment, it should come as no surprise that I voted “no” on this bill.

The anti-gun provisions in the bill trample on the 2nd Amendment and our right to due process. Here’s what the provisions do:

  • Add restrictions and background checks to private firearm transfers between law-abiding gun owners, effectively creating a gun registry.
  • Implement a “red flag law”, violating due process rights by allowing for the confiscation of a person’s firearms if a court grants a petition for an extreme protection order.
  • Do nothing to prevent gun violence or keep guns out of the hands of criminals who already don’t follow the law.

The Senate has said already said that these anti-gun provisions are a non-starter in the Senate and have little to no chance of becoming law.

Higher Education

On Tuesday, we passed the higher education omnibus finance bill. Sadly, despite raising billions in taxes to fund a tuition freeze, the bill does nothing to address the skyrocketing cost of Higher Education and bloated administrative budgets at the University of Minnesota. A tuition freeze is nice but ultimately is nothing more than a band-aid that fails to address the rising cost of Higher Education and bloated University administrative budgets.

Environment

The House approved the environment and natural resources bill on Tuesday. This bill raises fees on outdoor recreation, wastes taxpayer dollars and grows government by creating new government entities that agencies haven’t even asked for.

The bill raises license fees on virtually every type of watercraft by almost $6 million during the next two years. House Democrats also raise the aquatic invasive species surcharge fee on watercraft from $5 to $20 – far above the Governor’s recommended increase of $2.25.

Other Bills

In addition to the bills highlighted above, we also approved omnibus bills related to agriculture and state government finance this week.

The state government finance bill, in particular, was concerning as it grows government bureaucracy and increases government spending by over $101 million, nearly $21 million more than Governor Walz’s has proposed for the same agencies. The bill also includes an increase to the House budget that funds pay hikes approved earlier this year by the salary commission first established by a Democrat-approved constitutional amendment.

Staying in Touch

That’s all for this week’s update. I will have more updates for you in the coming weeks as House and Senate leadership and Governor Walz work out the differences in their budget proposals. Until then, please do not hesitate to contact me to share your thoughts and concerns regarding the budget or state government.

I can be reached by phone at 651-296-6746 or via email at rep.sondra.erickson@house.mn.

Thanks and have a great weekend,

Sondra

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