By Rep. Kristin Robbins
The regular legislative session ended on May 17 without sending a single budget bill to the Governor. The Governor and DFL Majority refused to give up their tax hikes until the last minute, so now we head into a June special session to complete the budget.
I have several concerns with the deal that the Governor, Speaker of the House, and Senate Majority Leader presented to Minnesotans. My biggest disappointments are that we did not end the Governor’s emergency powers and we did not provide tax relief to Minnesota families who received supplemental unemployment benefits (UI) and businesses who got PPP loans before taxes were due. The tax relief was agreed to in principle, however, and will happen at the Special Session (likely June 14th.) It will cover all businesses who received a PPP loan and will be retroactive for the 2020 tax year.
There is no reason we couldn’t have passed a free-standing bill on the final day of session to give Minnesotans the certainty they needed on PPP/UI tax relief before the midnight tax filing deadline. It was completely unacceptable to hold Minnesotans’ much-needed tax relief hostage during budget negotiations when we knew the DFL-proposed tax hikes would never be agreed to. Families and small businesses need that tax relief to make ends meet and they should not have to wait another month.
I am glad the Senate Majority leader stood strong against the many DFL-proposed tax increases on gas, income, and businesses. With a $4.4 billion surplus, the state does not need additional revenue from hard-working Minnesotans, particularly when we are just beginning the economy recovery from the pandemic.
My other concern about this deal is the amount of authority it gives to the Governor. In addition to failing to the emergency powers and restoring the balance of power between the Executive and Legislative branches, the deal gave Governor Walz $500 million of federal covid-relief money to spend as he wishes. For context, this is what it will cost to fund the State Patrol for the next 4 years. This money should be appropriated by the Legislature.
The deal also specifies that the Governor must approve of the budget bills BEFORE they are brought before the House and Senate Members to vote. This is a complete violation of separation of powers and is an unprecedented abdication of Legislative power to the Governor.
The House and Senate are supposed to work together to pass a budget that is then sent to the Governor. Although his staff is consulted throughout this process to get a sense of what the Governor will accept, he has never had, nor should he have, the right to officially approve of Legislative budget bills before they are voted on.
There is a lot of work that still needs to be done before we can finalize the budget. I am hopeful we can still end the emergency powers and ensure that the Legislature, not the Governor, retains control of the state budget and how the federal covid dollars are spent.
Rep. Kristin Robbins, R-Maple Grove, is the House District 34A representative. The district covers the cities of Dayton, Maple Grove, and Rogers.