Posted 3/9/22

GUEST Column BY DISTRICT 54B REP. TONY JURGENS Tax relief necessary following budget surplus improvement The big news of the week came from Minnesota’s economic experts who now project a $9.3 …

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GUEST Column


Tax relief necessary following budget surplus improvement

The big news of the week came from Minnesota’s economic experts who now project a $9.3 billion surplus for the 2022-23 legislative biennium. That figure is up $1.5 billion from the already historic $7.7 billion surplus projected in November.

As this number continues to rise, so does my belief that we have to put this money back in the hands of Minnesotans through permanent tax relief. With cost-of-living prices soaring – food, gasoline, and energy costs are all much higher when compared to last year – we have to find ways to allow people to keep more of what they earn.

One way to do this would be to approve my legislation that eliminates the state tax on Social Security. Our senior citizens are near the top of the list when ranking residents who are struggling the most with cost-ofliving increases. It doesn’t make sense to tax their Social Security benefits, and with this surplus we can eliminate this tax once and for all.

We also should be providing permanent income tax relief to low- and middle- class Minnesotans so they are able to better provide for their families. Governor Walz has mentioned sending one-time checks to Minnesotans, but I think we can do better. While it’s nice to get a check from the government, its nicer if government allows you to keep more of your hardearned money throughout the rest of your life. Permanent income tax relief for those who need it allows that to happen.

With the State of Minnesota sitting on a massive budget surplus, there is no reason not to financially assist our residents with significant and permanent tax relief, and I’m hopeful lawmakers should take advantage of this historic opportunity.

Last week I told you about a bill I’m working on that would use projected budget surplus cash to pay off state bonding debt. The bill, HF3991, was introduced this week. I’ll provide updates as that bill progresses.

I had two bills heard in committees this week.

HF3657, the bill that would provide a cash appropriation to replace the Minnesota Veterans Home in Hastings, was heard in the House Labor, Industry, Veterans and Military Affairs Committee. Minnesota Veterans Affairs Commissioner Larry Herke testified for the bill along with Hastings Veterans Home Administrator Michael Anderson and a resident of the home, Robert Brown. The testifiers did a great job of illustrating the current condition of the home and explaining the need to replace, rather than repair, the 1902 building.

The bill for substance misuse and awareness and prevention education, HF3655, was heard in the House Education Policy committee. We heard moving testimony from Bridgette Norring of Hastings and Nancy Sack from rural Blue Earth County. Bridgette’s son Devin and Nancy’s grandson Travis both died from fentanyl poisoning. Our young people are dying from pills they think are prescription drugs like Adderall or Percocet, but in fact are laced with a lethal amount of fentanyl. Education programs won’t bring back Devin or Travis but it can prevent other families from losing a loved one. PRIORITIZING PUBLIC SAFETY House Republicans held a news conference Wednesday to unveil our 2022 public safety priorities. The package focused on three key areas; crime prevention and accountability for criminals; police recruitment and retention and holding the criminal justice system accountable.

The comprehensive package includes a pair of bills I am chief authoring: providing a $2 million grant to the Ramsey County Sheriff for mobile ShotSpotters in areas of the county with a high incidence of gunfire; and making fleeing a police officer a felony offense.

In addition, I am authoring several other pro-law enforcement bills this session, including legislation that provides funding to expand the Dakota County Law Enforcement Center; establishes an account allowing law enforcement to be reimbursed if they send personnel to assist during a riot; and provides grant funds giving smaller law enforcement agencies the opportunity to purchase body cameras.

NO MOVEMENT ON LOCAL BUSINESS OWNER TAX INCREASE If you’re a local business owner wondering where we stand on the potential 15% tax increase that will take effect in less than two weeks without legislative action, I have nothing new to report.

House Democrats have refused to bring a bill forward addressing the issue, and the last we’ve heard is that they are still considering a plan no other legislative caucus supports that would force employers to pay higher taxes over the next six years. A debt of more than $1 billion needs to be eliminated from Minnesota’s Unemployment Insurance (UI) Trust Fund. It could very easily be handled with our now $9 billion budget surplus, but for whatever reason the House leaders have yet to take action.

OUT AND ABOUT The Association of Minnesota Counties annual day at the Capitol took place earlier this week. With the State Office Building still closed to the public and meeting space at the Capitol building being used, I met with the Washington County delegation in the alcove on the House floor. I also had a good visit with Dakota County Commissioner Mike Slavik at the AMC event in St. Paul.