Viewpoint: Repeal new tax laws; return most of surplus to taxpayers
Minnesota lawmakers have returned to the state Capitol for the 2014 legislative session, and the top priority for all sides is going to be determining what to do with our state budget surplus.
On Feb. 28, state economists shared the good news: a $1.2 billion windfall for Minnesota through the remainder of the 2014-15 budget cycle and a $2.6 billion surplus in the 2016-17 biennium.
Last session, Democratic leadership in the Minnesota Legislature along with Gov. Mark Dayton chose to increase the tax burden on all hardworking Minnesotans. This surplus shows those tax increases were unnecessary.
With this significant surplus, we have the funds in hand to eliminate their new tax laws. Democrats in the Minnesota House have already begun addressing last year’s mistakes by crafting a bill that repeals some of their tax increases. It quickly moved through the committee process and was overwhelmingly approved by the full House last Thursday. Hopefully the Senate will soon follow suit.
So what should be done with the rest of the surplus?
It’s my belief that this money belongs to the people, not state government. So my personal preference would be to provide additional tax relief for the hardworking taxpayers of Minnesota.
Besides individual tax relief, I support a pair of other surplus-related provisions, including placing a significant percentage of it in Minnesota’s rainy day fund and giving a 5 percent pay increase for long-term care facilities and their employees.
As co-author of the 5 percent bill, I know how desperately this legislation is needed. The employees who work in group homes and other long-term care facilities have not received a raise in many years. These are skilled, educated caregivers who are performing a critical service to our community yet many are making less than they could in a retail position. Boosting their pay would not only encourage many current employees to stay in the profession but would likely entice others to choose long-term care as a career.
What members of legislative leadership should avoid is a spending spree. They increased state spending by $3 billion last year, along with approving $2.1 billion in tax and fee hikes on Minnesotans, so I’m hopeful they will avoid the temptation to find new ways to spend your money.
As always, I will be sure to update you on budget developments as the session progresses. In the meantime, if you have any legislative questions or concerns do not hesitate to contact me. I can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 651-296-3135. Please keep in touch.
Rep. Denny McNamara, R-Hastings, represents House District 54B, which includes part of Cottage Grove, Denmark Township, Afton, Hastings and Nininger Township.