Rep. Josh Heintzeman
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.
We have entered the final budget negotiation stage of the 2019 legislative session with a little over a week to go until final adjournment. Leadership from the House Democrat majority, Senate Republican majority and Governor Walz have been meeting to try and reach a compromise on a final budget deal. When we discuss budgets, we are ultimately talking about priorities. For example, Minnesotans across the state set their own spending priorities when they sit down around the kitchen table and put together the family budget for the month.
This past week, the House of Representatives began the long and time-consuming process of debating and voting on omnibus finance bills. These bills represent the entirety of the DFL majority's budget and policy priorities. Omnibus bills package several smaller bills into a single bill and are accepted as a single vote by the legislature. Whether or not omnibus bills should even exist would easily take up an entire 500-word editorial, but that's an argument for another day.
As your state representative, it is my duty to make sure the interests of the Brainerd lakes area are heard loud and clear in St. Paul. A huge part of that is protecting you from onerous and excessive tax increases that cause real hardship for Greater Minnesota families. Over the last few months, I've highlighted some of the proposals that are now making their way into final omnibus finance bills that are about to be heard on the floor of the House of Representatives.
One of the most important duties I have as state representative is to ensure that your tax dollars are being spent wisely, efficiently, and in a way that provides transparency for taxpayers. A huge part of that involves working to root out waste, fraud, and abuse in our public programs. While it can be difficult to pinpoint instances of fraud within public programs, we are fortunate to have dedicated public servants at the nonpartisan Office of the Legislative Auditor (OLA) that take the time to investigate and audit agencies to ensure program integrity.
Like many area residents, I was extremely concerned when the DNR revealed last month that a wild deer in Crow Wing County had tested positive for Chronic Wasting Disease. This is the first time a CWD-positive deer has been found outside of southeastern Minnesota.
Last week, Gov. Tim Walz released his first budget proposal as our governor. State law requires the governor to present a budget to the Legislature in odd-numbered years. The proposal signals the governor's spending and policy priorities and helps shape the broader conversation around the capitol as legislators work hard to pass their own budget.
Late last month, Democrats held a hearing in the House Labor Committee for a proposal that would require Minnesota employers to provide up to 24 weeks of paid sick and family leave, per year, for their employees. If I was at a speaking engagement, I would let that hang there for a minute and allow people to process. Notice I didn't say 24 days of leave, but rather a full 24 week or 168 day benefit. As proposed, this would apply to every single employee and employer in the state including small and micro businesses, part-time and temporary employees, and independent contractors.
The 2018 legislative session adjourned a little over a month ago, marking the end of one of the most productive two years at the Legislature in recent memory. This biennium's work resulted in the largest tax cut in nearly two decades, the largest investment in roads and bridges in state history without a gas tax increase, major funding boosts for education, and reforms to lower health care costs and increase health care choices for Minnesota families.
The 2018 legislative session is underway and it's been a busy first two weeks. Important issues like federal tax conformity, a bonding bill, fixing Minnesota's broken DMV/MNLARS system and ways to combat the opioid epidemic will all be discussed this session. As for myself, I will continue to fight for the values and priorities that matter most to you and your family.