The 2019 legislative session came to a close last Saturday morning following the completion of a one-day special session. The special session was needed to pass budget bills because negotiations between the Senate Majority Leader, House Speaker and Governor Walz dragged into the final weekend of the regular session.
Despite needing "overtime" to finish our work, I am pleased to report that House and Senate Republicans successfully defeated the vast majority of Democrats' $12 billion in proposed tax increases including, among other things, the 70% gas tax increase.
This is good news and a win for Minnesotans.
While we succeeded in preventing the vast majority of tax increases from becoming law, I am disappointed that the "sick" tax was reinstated as part of the final budget deal.
Democrats spent the entire campaign season last summer and fall making promises to Minnesotans that they would lower the costs of health care. The sick tax does the exact opposite by raising health care taxes by $2.295 billion over the next four years.
The sick tax is levied on most patient services in Minnesota, including things like baby deliveries, chemotherapy treatments, routine doctor visits, emergency room visits, and more.
Simply put, getting sick should not be a "taxable" event.
Despite that disappointment, there is certainly a lot to be proud of in this year's budget deal. Here are a few items of note that I would consider "wins" for Minnesota.
The tax bill provided the first income tax rate cut in 20 years by lowering the state's second-tier income tax rate from 7.05% to 6.8% beginning in 2019, allowing most Minnesotans to keep more of their hard-earned money.
We successfully defended law-abiding citizens' Second Amendment rights thanks to bipartisan opposition to gun-control bills in both the House and Senate.
The final budget agreement extended reinsurance for two years, continuing a program that has proven to lower health care costs for families and become a national model that other states red and blue alike are following.
We held the line and successfully defeated Democrat-backed efforts to cut $68 million from nursing homes. These cuts would have devastated budgets for nursing facilities and harmed care for aging Minnesotans.
Republicans stood strong and blocked all of the Democrat-backed transportation tax increases, including the Governor's 70% increase to the gas tax.
The Health and Human Services finance bill included provisions to crack down on fraud in the Child Care Assistance Program (CCAP). Recent reports have found widespread fraud and problems with program integrity within CCAP. The reforms in the Health and Human Services bill are an important first step in addressing the problems facing this program.
I was also proud to secure $4 million in funding for the National Loon Center in Crosslake. The Loon Center will work to restore and protect loon habitats and enhance environmental recreation. This is an important project that I have worked hard to make a reality for our area.
While the 2019 legislative session may be over, my job as your state representative is not. Please continue to reach out to me to share any thoughts, questions, or concerns related to state government. I can be reached by phone at 651-296-4333 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Heintzeman, R-Nisswa, represents District 10A in the Minnesota House of Representatives