ST. PAUL – The Minnesota House adjourned Thursday from a special session after having approved a series of omnibus finance bills to shape the state’s next two-year budget.
State Rep. Shane Mekeland, R-Clear Lake, said the biggest success stories of the new $52 billion two-year spending plan center as much on what didn’t happen as what did. Mekeland said he is pleased Republican priorities such as preventing health care premiums from skyrocketing prevailed. And he noted tax increases proposed by House Democrats and Gov. Tim Walz were stymied.
“The fact they even mentioned raising taxes by billions of dollars this year is so tone-deaf it’s unbelievable,” Mekeland said. “The governor literally forced people out of work – with support from House Democrats, I might add – and then turns around and wants them to pay more in taxes at a time the state has a historic surplus. It’s total nonsense and I’m glad we stopped them.”
Mekeland indicated the most controversial public safety policy was blocked by Republicans and no anti-police reform measures made it into the final deal. Provisions that remained were revised to make them acceptable to the law enforcement community, Mekeland said.
“As someone who has the utmost respect for our law enforcement officers, it makes me very happy to see we blocked proposals that would make their job harder and make things even less safe,” Mekeland said. “We ended up with a package that will protect victims of crime and ensure justice is served. That’s the way it should be.”
Mekeland also said an omnibus package with provisions related to energy also was cleared of provisions he viewed as most problematic before it was sent to the governor for enactment.
“As a member of the House committee on energy, it was just staggering how many bad ideas we saw that would make our grid less stable and more costly,” Mekeland said. “Fortunately, we were able to keep them out of the final bill.
“One thing that remains a work in progress pertains to the future of the Sherco property in Becker. There have been ongoing efforts from environmental extremists to repeal a bipartisan 2017 law stipulating coal plants being shuttered in Becker will be replaced with a natural gas-fired power plant. This is a big issue for our area, and I continue working on legislative angles, considering the best paths for us to take to support local interests.”
In addition, the Legislature on Wednesday approved language ending Minnesota’s peacetime emergency for COVID-19 the governor declared in March of 2020. The move came on a motion made by House Republicans to amend a state government finance omnibus bill which subsequently received legislative approval.
House Democrats then, on Thursday, amended new language related to emergency powers onto an omnibus tax bill which was approved by both bodies. Mekeland said he objected to the change and is concerned it grants power to the governor’s commissioners to declare a public health emergency for nearly any reason without proper guardrails to prevent overreach.
“We put an end to the governor’s state of emergency on Wednesday and should have left well enough alone,” Mekeland said. “This additional language potentially creates a Pandora’s box of overreach from the governor and his administration and Lord knows we’ve witnessed enough of that the last 16 months.”