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

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Legislative update

Friday, March 19, 2021

Dear Neighbor, 

We are around 11 weeks into the 2021 session and there is no sugarcoating the fact this has been a historically slow start in the Minnesota House of Representatives. 

The House gave final approval to just five bills to date through the first 10 weeks – none of them of great magnitude – marking the fewest at that point of a session since at least the early 90s. According to a report from House non-partisan staff, the House also recently had processed just 333 committee reports, the fewest at that point in an odd-numbered session since 2011. 

While it is true major bills typically are resolved during the latter stages of any given session, it also is true these are different times and urgent action is needed on several time-sensitive matters. So far, legislation to address those issues has plodded along at a snail’s pace, adding to the stress and concerns Minnesota businesses and families already were facing. 

Legislation to correct tax problems for businesses and workers, provide funding for our law enforcement and help children who need to catch up in school should not be partisan. Here is a look at four bills that warrant prompt approval:

  • The SAFE Account sets aside $35 million for mutual aid agreements for anticipated law enforcement response for the Derek Chauvin trial and other major public safety events. That bill has been on hold since the majority’s proposal failed twice weeks ago on the House floor. A common-sense compromise worthy of strong, bipartisan support has been put forward and has been endorsed by the Star Tribune Editorial Board.  
  • Currently, Minnesota is the only state in the upper Midwest that has yet to exempt forgiven PPP loan payments. Without approval of a bill, businesses could owe hundreds of thousands of dollars or more in state income taxes simply for using the PPP funds as intended by the federal government. (Note: The guidelines for these forgivable loans were so prescriptive that businesses could not simply sock 10 percent aside to cover a state tax liability, even if they had the foresight to anticipate a state charge nobody told them would exist.) The Senate already passed a PPP tax relief bill with a veto-proof majority on a 55-12 vote but things remain at a standstill in the House.  
  • A bill exempting $10,200 in Unemployment Insurance income, the same exempted by the federal government, to eliminate a surprise tax bill for people who have been out of work. 
  • A bill has been authored which applies federal funds the state is receiving toward defraying costs of in-person summer school learning to help struggling students get back on track after a year of distance learning. The bill also provides funding for student mental health, as well as early learning scholarships. 

Each of these bills easily could pass the House with broad, bipartisan support in a matter of days, not weeks or months. Efforts to do so were presented by the House minority on the House floor this week, but the majority blocked every attempt. In fact, a motion to take up legislation preventing tax hikes on Minnesota businesses who received PPP loans was denied on March 15, which happened to be the deadline to file business taxes. 

Failure to act means businesses now will be forced to file extensions, burdening them with unnecessary added costs and headaches. There is no legitimate reason to delay taking approving these bills; they are popular ideas. Also, the state has a $1.6 billion surplus, overflowing budget reserves and is receiving $2.5 billion in recently approved federal aid. 

The need is there and Minnesotans want the House to deliver results. Time is of the essence and the House needs to act now.

Gov. still wants to raise taxes

The governor issued an updated budget proposal this week. It includes $670 million in tax hikes despite the state being flush with cash with a $1.6 billion surplus, overflowing reserves and $2.5 billion coming to the state from the recently passed federal relief bill. The governor’s revised budget fails to fully exempt PPP loans from state taxes and includes tax hikes on both individual and corporate income taxes. 

So, yes: The governor told people they cannot work or caused to suffer reduced income and now he wants more money from them at a time the state is sitting on more than $4 billion and has even more stashed away in reserve accounts. 

Tax increases obviously are not necessary to balance the state budget, so I ask you to consider on your own what would be driving this proposal. House Democrats will come forward with their own budget proposal next week. Will they also look to unnecessarily raise our taxes? 

Let’s get off the backs of people and let them start getting their finances back in order after an extremely difficult year that was only made worse by restrictions the governor placed upon them.



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