Nelson: The Rest of the Story: “Transformational” session leaves working Minnesotans behind
This op-ed was originally published in the Rochester Post Bulletin.
Recently the Post Bulletin published a piece by my colleague, Senator Liz Boldon, in which she described this year’s legislative session as “transformational.” Much of what she wrote about is good. We invested a lot in schools and infrastructure, and Republicans secured $300 million for nursing homes over Democrats’ session-long objection. These are positive things.
But I am reminded of “The Rest of the Story” by the famed Paul Harvey. Here is the 2023 Legislative Rest of the Story: In many cases, the so-called transformational changes will be completely negated by the harmful, reckless, and problematic policies that the extreme Democrat governing trifecta passed this year.
The Rest of the Story: Education
Yes, we had bipartisan agreement to invest billions into our schools, including student formula increases, funding for special education, and a new focus on literacy. These are things I advocated for when I was Education Finance and Policy Chair and I am glad that Democrats shared an interest in these issues in 2023.
The rest of the story is the cost of excessive and crushing mandates Democrats imposed on schools. These mandates are so expensive that many schools will actually incur a net funding loss! The situation is so dire that even at a time of record state funding and fewer students, many districts are headed to local property taxpayers to ask for increased local funding to cover the cost of new unfunded mandates. One superintended even remarked that this legislative session could be “one of the most damaging” he had seen in his entire career. (1) This is unacceptable. There is a bipartisan consensus to prioritize schools. We should do that, but not cripple their budgets with excessive government-driven mandates.
The Rest of the Story: Taxes
To claim that the 2023 Tax bill included the largest tax cuts in state history is a misnomer at best. The rest of the story is that the Democrat budget gobbled up the entire $19,000,000,000 (BILLION) surplus and increased Minnesota’s already high taxes by an additional $9 Billion!
Here are just a few of the new taxes and tax hikes to hit your wallet:
- Gas tax that will rise with inflation
- New tax on deliveries, dubbed the Amazon tax, but it applies to all delivery services save for food.
- New fees and payroll taxes ($3 Billion) to fund new government-run programs like paid leave and the Office of Cannabis.
- New regulations on electric utilities are destined to increase energy bills and decrease grid reliability.
- New watercraft fees
- Tax hikes for license tab fee and vehicle sales tax
The Rest of the Story: To Sum it Up
Minnesotans saw a 40% growth in state government that required not only spending the entire $19 billion surplus but also $9 billion in new tax collections.
This session sharply illustrated Democrats misplaced priorities. Instead of a flexible, market-based paid family leave that would have worked for everyone, the one-party controlled state government created an expensive, one-size-fits-all mandate that will hurt workers and businesses. Instead of providing big tax relief as promised, they spent the surplus. Instead of making the lives of working Minnesotans easier, they enriched government. Instead of fully funding schools, they imposed new mandates on schools leading to tight budgets, budget cuts, or property tax hikes.
My Republican colleagues and I offered better and more taxpayer-friendly alternatives to virtually every one of their ideas. We tried to work together but these efforts were mostly ignored.
My sincere hope is that next year there will be more of a genuine effort at cooperation. If we work together, I truly believe we can have a sustainable and better outcome for all Minnesotans, not just a select few.