Governor Walz released details of his 2021-2022 budget proposal late last month. The release of the governor’s proposal is the first step in the process of approving a new two-year state budget. In addition to restoring the Legislature’s rightful role as a co-equal branch of government, debating, and passing a two-year budget is the most important thing lawmakers will address this year.

The governor’s budget is headlined by nearly $1.7 billion in tax increases, major spending hikes, and almost no meaningful spending cuts.

In fact, out of a budget of more than $52 billion, the Governor is proposing just $150 million in spending cuts. That is not even a 0.3% reduction in spending and is an affront to Minnesota families and businesses that saw their incomes and profits fall off a cliff in 2020.

Related: Guest Opinion: Our work has begun in the 2021 legislative session

As for the tax increases, the governor is proposing a 15% tax increase on businesses and a 10% hike on Minnesota’s top tax bracket. The business taxes would vault Minnesota to the second highest rate in the nation and the income tax hike would move us to the third highest income tax rate in America.

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It is disappointing, although not surprising, to see Governor Walz and Democrats resort to their old, tired playbook of “tax and spend”.

Lawmakers owe it to hardworking Minnesotans to make sure that state government shares in the sacrifices that so many endured during 2020. That is why we should reduce spending and stop the government’s continued intrusion into our daily lives.

We have our work cut out for us, but I am committed to working hard for you, your family and the state of Minnesota to make sure we recover from the social and economic costs incurred by the governor’s bungled response to COVID-19.

As for the social costs associated with the pandemic, I am concerned about how school closures are impacting children across Minnesota. These harmful shutdowns have caused significant harm for students not only by impacting their academic trajectory, but also causing significant mental health problems for many.

A year’s worth of data from across the country and around the world shows that we can safely reopen schools.

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In fact, President Biden's Centers for Disease Director, Dr. Rochelle Walensky, stated last week that we can safely reopen schools and get students and teachers back in the classroom, even before all teachers are vaccinated.

I will hold the governor and Department of Education accountable and make sure they are considering the risks of mental health, maltreatment, and learning loss for students when they make decisions to close schools.

Instead of leaving it up to local school boards, parents, teachers, and others to make decisions for their communities, Governor Walz continues to centralize power by controlling many aspects of our daily lives. The issue with schools is just another example of why we need to end the emergency powers and return control to local decision-makers.

Please continue to reach out to me if you have questions or concerns regarding matters related to state government. It is my duty to make sure that your voice is well represented in St. Paul. I can be reached by phone at 651-296-4333 or via email at rep.josh.heintzeman@house.mn.

Heintzeman, R-Nisswa, represents District 10A in the Minnesota House of Representatives