By Rep. Tony Jurgens, 6/4/2019
Hello from St. Paul,
Minnesota’s state budget has been approved, and the 2019 legislative session is now behind us.
As is usually the case, there are positives and negatives to be found within every budget area of state government.
Most people I’ve spoken with are pleased that a 20-cent per gallon gas tax increase plan championed by Governor Walz and Minnesota House Democratic leadership was stopped, as was a $68 million funding cut to nursing homes.
Remember, the legislature approved a law last session that provides a permanent funding solution to transportation needs without raising taxes. The governor and House leadership wanted to eliminate that this session and force you to accept a 20-cent per gallon gas tax increase instead.
If someone tells you we need a comprehensive transportation funding solution at the State Capitol, this is a non-transparent way of saying they want to take more of your money by raising gas taxes, tab fees, motor vehicle sales taxes, or even adding another ½ cent to the Metro Area sales tax.
As part of this approved budget, $6 billion will be allocated for statewide transportation needs without raising anyone’s taxes. In addition, $13 million will be sent to our deputy registrars who are struggling with our MNLARS licensing system. $200,000 of this will assist our deputy registrars in Hastings and Cottage Grove.
Among other good news provisions: middle class Minnesotans will receive a ¼% income tax reduction; and Minnesota schools will receive a 2% funding increase over each of the next two years.
We’re also cracking down on fraud in our Child Care Assistance Program. This includes stricter reporting requirements, stronger oversight, and a case-tracking system at the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension to help track fraud cases. While there’s still more work to do, these provisions are a good first-step toward restoring integrity in CCAP and our other public programs.
On a personal note, you’ll recall during our flooding season earlier this year that I offered legislation that would replenish Minnesota’s Disaster Contingency Account – which was created to allocate funds to communities impacted by natural disasters and to avoid calling special sessions to authorize the appropriation of these funds.
While the final total is far lower than the $20 million I sought, at least there’s something there for our disaster victims.
Among the biggest disappointments is the continuation of Minnesota’s sick tax, which is a 2% tax leveled on anyone who makes a doctor or dentist visit. By law, the sick tax was going to expire on December 31.
Originally, the sick tax was created in order to help provide health care to low income Minnesotans. Minnesota now receives federal money to accomplish this goal. That means money raised through the continuation of this program – the cost of the tax has dropped from 2% to 1.8% – will likely be spent in other areas of state government, which is not the original intent and not what most Minnesotans are being told.
With the 2019 session now over, I’d like to remind residents that I am always available to answer your questions or concerns. Please email me any time at email@example.com, or call my office at 651-296-3135.
Have a great summer!
Representative Tony Jurgens
351 State Office Building
St. Paul, MN 55155