By Rep. Shane Mekeland
The Legislature is set to adjourn on Monday and things remain in major flux as we march toward the deadline with a working weekend in store.
Most of the remaining decisions pertain to how the state should appropriate the state’s massive surplus of around $10 billion. I continue to advocate for permanent, meaningful tax relief. House and Senate majority leaders and the governor earlier this week reached the framework of an agreement and conference committees have been working since then to flesh out the details.
What happens between now and adjournment is unclear. There could be smooth sailing to the finish line, hiccups could occur pushing things right down to the wire, or the wheels could fall off in negotiations and work is left on the table.
The agreement reached between the governor and legislative leaders is very loose, with buckets of taxpayer dollars appropriated to various purposes. Exactly how those blanks are filled in is a work in progress; that's the rub.
While we can expect plenty of debate over various appropriations, I would like to take a step back and underscore the importance of using the state’s massive over-collection of tax dollars to provide historic tax relief at a time Minnesotans are facing skyrocketing price increases on pretty much all goods and services.
Minnesota’s state government is fully funded for the biennium, so there is no threat of a state shutdown if things remain unresolved at adjournment. But now we are hearing rumblings from the governor that he may call a special session, if necessary, to make sure all those billions of taxpayer dollars are spent.
If our choices are between spending billions more on government programs or waiting until next year to revisit this issue and take another shot at going all in on tax relief, I say let’s take the long view and get back at it in 2023 with a new look in St. Paul. For example, anything other than a full repeal of the state’s tax on Social Security should be unacceptable. Minnesota is one of just a dozen states that still taxes Social Security and it’s time to put that to rest.
We’ve had nearly four months this session to build consensus on this top priority but that has not happened. Instead, the House in recent days has been conducting floor votes bills related to beer, betting and bullion, among other one-off subjects.
Tax relief has yet to receive final approval, but a vote took place creating a new 12-member liquor bureaucracy. No package to crack down on soaring violent crime was taken up, but the House voted to expand sports gambling. And no bill to provide common-sense solutions to ensure reliable, affordable energy amid a tight supply of electricity on our grid was passed, but the House did approve language related to bullion dealers.
Time is running out for our Legislature to deliver the results Minnesotans deserve and expect. We need to get it right on real tax relief, making our streets safer and capitalizing on modern technology to power our state. These issues are too important to fall short, yet, as we know all to well, bad things and unintended consequences can happen by approving legislation just for the sake of passing “something.”