Legislative Priorities by DFL: More Spending

State_Budget_Surplus_Worksheet.jpgThe comments by the legislators from SD49 and SD50 on the Bloomington Legislative Priorities Zoom meeting on January 17 expressed some candid opinions about the projected surplus of $7B+ in the state budget and how it will be approached in the upcoming legislative session.

All of the legislators who were on the call are members of the DFL party. Although their views on the budget surplus varied, none of them called for cuts in the state’s personal income tax. None stated that a budget surplus has been occurring now for several budget cycles and that the state’s high personal and corporate income tax rate should be reduced. Their remarks largely indicated the need for the government to redirect more money in the state’s economy rather than less.

Senator Melisa Lopez-Franzen (DFL, Edina), serving as the Senate Minority Leader, expected that the legislature would bring up tax cuts. She would look at property tax relief and some targeted tax cuts. She also would seek funding to support families and kids. She expects that the DFL will focus in issues with staffing (nurses, child care, and schools), and transportation. Key areas this year: public safety and the economy.

Senator Melissa Wiklund (DFL, Bloomington) noted that the legislator needed to deal not only with the surplus but also with the significant amount of federal funding that has flowed to Minnesota. She pointed to helping people though the state’s Department of Health and Human Services, providing funding to nursing homes and public health and child care.

Rep. Michael Howard (DFL, Richfield) saw the surplus as a one-time opportunity and does not support permanent tax cuts that would “put the state in a hole for years.” He wanted to use the surplus to address “economic insecurities”, to put money in the pockets “of people being squeezed.” He said that there is an affordable housing crisis due to “persistent underfunding of housing.” He wants formula-based housing aid to cities to invest in housing solutions and asked for the kind of solutions that Bloomington would pursue if grants of funding were available. He also believes that the focus should be on the biggest items in family budgets and suggested that child care might be one of the biggest items.

Rep, Steve Elkins (DFL, west Bloomington wants to push housing and workforce initiatives. He supports improved pay for front-line workers, “high-touch” personal care assistants, child care workers, and school bus drivers. On the housing front, he spoke of rental assistance and builders assistance. He wants to “legalize” affordable housing, updating legislation based on stakeholder feedback. In the area of security and public safety, Elkins wants to improve the sharing of crime data to better detect trends. He wants to identify and reduce technical barriers to sharing data and make the jobs of crime data analysts easier.

Rep Andrew Carlson (DFL, east Bloomington) acknowledged that there would likely be a tax bill. However, he wanted to see more money going to ensure resilience to climate change, cyber security, child care, and a safety net for children. He wants to increase labor force participation through recruiting and training. He also emphasized more money for affordable housing, with some of the surplus going to shovel-ready projects.