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

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Legislative update

Friday, February 26, 2021

Dear Neighbor, 

Positive economic news for our state was issued today when Minnesota Management & Budget released a new state economic forecast projecting a $1.6 billion surplus for the 2022-23 budget cycle. This is a significant improvement over the $1.3 billion shortfall projected in December for the same period.  

It is nice to see Minnesota’s economy is improving and that projections for a multi-billion-dollar shortfall that were made several months ago have not materialized. Minnesotans deserve credit for helping our economy far surpass previous expectations and get our state headed in the right direction.  

That said, we would be doing a whole lot better if the governor would ease up on his unilateral control over businesses and let them safely re-open. His proposal to raise taxes by $1.7 billion is completely unnecessary and out of touch with reality. You can’t put people out of work or reduce their paychecks, as the governor has done, and then turn around and raise their taxes – especially at a time of surplus.  

That’s just wrong. Minnesota already is a high-tax state, but the tax hikes put forward by the governor would place Minnesota in the top three in the nation for both income and business tax rates. We need to reopen our state so Minnesota businesses and families can begin their own economic recovery, digging out of the hole caused by restrictions that have been placed upon them. 

MMB said the turnaround is due, in large part, to an improved U.S. economic outlook that is bolstered by large federal actions that have emerged since November and were not incorporated in earlier projections. The projected surplus also is related to a higher revenue forecast, lower state spending, and an increased surplus for the current fiscal year. 

I look forward to taking a deeper dive into the forecast to see exactly how federal funding factored into the state figures.

SAFE Account

I remain committed to ensuring law enforcement has the resources needed to keep Minnesotans safe. Meanwhile, plans to create a $35 million public safety emergency fund in order to provide law enforcement agencies with additional resources and help avoid a repeat of last summer’s Minneapolis riots, arson and looting have been a struggle. 

The House majority twice recently tried and failed to get their SAFE Account bill off the floor (HF445) and now must decide whether they want to actually take a bipartisan approach or continue allowing extreme views from the fringe of their caucus to cause dysfunction on this issue. 

The latest attempt to move the SAFE Account failed by a 62-72 vote, the first time in years that a priority bill for the majority and/or governor has been voted down on the House floor. A major hangup with the bill is the majority insists on including controversial policy provisions that caused the bill to lose support of Minnesota’s top three law enforcement groups, while also blocking Republican attempts to offer a meaningful compromise that could have earned significant bipartisan support.  

The Star Tribune has taken note and recently published an editorial from its staff entitled: State House Republicans have the right idea on police security funding. It provides quotes relaying the fact House Republicans agree with the governor’s request to set up this account and that we concur reimbursing other police and sheriffs’ departments for extraordinary mutual aid is appropriate. 

Ideally, this new SAFE Account would be in place before the Derek Chauvin trial begins soon, so we will see what unfolds.

Social studies 

The state is in the process of establishing new social studies standards for our schools. Minnesota students deserve a well-rounded education that serves to educate students about our nation's history, not indoctrinate.

However, the most recent draft of the social studies standards lacks balance and seems more focused on demonizing our country than giving students a proper historical perspective that recognizes America's contributions and successes throughout history.

The bottom line is our standards should focus on building a balanced foundational knowledge of our country’s history. We should recognize all cultures and their contributions to our state/country, and ensure standards are striking a proper balance. We also can recognize America’s tremendous accomplishments, as well as its mistakes.  

The problem with the initial standards draft is it focuses too heavily on creating a negative image of our country, leaving students with crucial missing pieces about all of the good things our country has fought for and accomplished throughout history.

This is a developing subject, and the final standards draft is not expected to be in place until later this summer or into the fall. In the meantime, several House Republican members submitted a letter outlining our concerns and objecting to the draft standards to the Commissioner of Education. Bills have been filed placing a moratorium on the new standards (HF351) and suspending and restarting the proposed social studies standards (HF1146).

Until next time, have a good weekend and let me know how I can be of assistance.



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