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Legislative News and Views - Rep. Shane Mekeland (R)

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Update from the House

Friday, March 6, 2020

Dear Neighbor,

The big news lately in St. Paul is that our state is now projected to be over-collecting $1.5 billion from taxpayers for the 2020-21 biennium.

Minnesota Management & Budget released an updated economic forecast for the state and the $1.5 billion surplus it shows for 2020-21 is an improvement of $181 million from the $1.3 billion surplus projected in November. In addition, the cash flow account balance is $350 million in each year 2020-23. The budget reserve balance for the 2020-21 biennium is $2.4 billion.

This might be a good time to point the fact that – with the help of Senate Republicans – we pushed back on the Democrats taxing and spending last year and it is now paying off. Our economy remains strong and now, instead of hearing Democrats talk about $12 billion in tax increases (as they did last year), the real discussion should center on how to best provide Minnesotans with tax relief.

We could start by eliminating the state tax on social security because it’s a shame that even exists. Our state is in a slim minority that even taxes social security, so let’s get rid of it. House Republicans are in the process of developing a comprehensive plan for tax relief, so look for those details to surface soon.

In other news, the House on Thursday provided broad, bipartisan approval of a bill to replenish funds for the state’s depleted Rural Finance Authority loan program for farmers. In case there are any misconceptions, it should be noted that, since these funds are paid back by farmers, this program does not come at a cost to taxpayers, making it even easier to support.

Upon enactment, the bill would provide $50 million in funds after the RFA program ran dry Feb. 21. The RFA’s programs are popular among farmers and passage of the bill now will help to ensure a smoother crop season. Many farmers count on RFA programs to run their business so, with the new planting season approaching, it was important to get this bill through now instead of waiting until the end of session.

Agriculture is a huge deal in our state, so it was good we supported our farmers by passing this bill now and providing them with some certainty heading into the spring. The bill now awaits action in the Minnesota Senate.

On a final note, we heard more in a House committee about the majority’s energy plan, including a bill which effectively imposes a 100 percent renewable energy mandate on the state’s electric utilities. A study by the Center for the American Experiment showed that just a 50 percent renewable mandate would raise costs to consumers by $80 billion over the next 30 years.

To make matters worse, the majority keeps working to shut down coal plants and now is standing in the way of natural gas. In a committee meeting this week, the progressives voted to stop the gas plant from being built at the Sherco site in Becker.

The good news is the committee accepted an amendment I offered to prioritize the hiring of workers from communities with retiring power plants.

Have a good weekend,


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