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Minnesota political news from an insider’s perspective.
With the House and Senate moving huge budget bills through the process, a lot of bad and expensive legislation is one step closer to Gov. Walz’s desk for signing. Democrats are sticking to the budget targets agreed to with Walz. That means they are spending every last dime of the surplus ($12 billion one-time and $5 billion ongoing). They are also raising taxes in order to spend even more.
Which brings us to this week’s Capitol Watch. There isn’t space in the newsletter to write about all the bad things that passed this week, so we are highlighting just ten.
Ten things that happened this week in St. Paul that will have a long-lasting (and negative) impact on the State of Minnesota:
1. Radical Ethnic Studies
The mandate that all public school districts embed radical ethnic studies into their curriculum and standards from kindergarten through twelfth grade passed both the House and Senate as part of the omnibus education bill. As American Experiment chronicled here, Democrats used bait and switch tactics to convince themselves that ethnic studies is about culture while the bill language is full of critical race theory.
Rep. Walter Hudson spoke from the heart on this topic, saying he is a living example of the success of Martin Luther King’s vision for the country.
He was later criticized on Twitter by DFL colleague Rep. Carlie Kotyza-Witthuhn for daring to speak from his personal experience:
What’s unbelievable is that House Democrats continue trying to silence the voices of Black conservatives.
The good news is they backed off making ethnic studies a graduation requirement and only require districts to offer the class. The bad news is ethnic studies is baked into the new social studies standards about to be approved and Democrats will return next year trying to add the graduation requirement.
2. School funding now tied to inflation
It should surprise no one the omnibus education bill devotes billions of dollars in new funding for schools with no accountability for academic achievement. The new wrinkle this year is that Democrats tied increases in the funding formula to inflation. This puts the largest part of the state budget on autopilot.
Imagine in a few years after another wave of taxpayers flee the state and Minnesota is facing a budget deficit. The legislature will be forced to increase K-12 spending and adhere to the constitutional requirement for a balanced budget. What will be the result? Income tax increases, of course.
Tying the education formula to inflation is the biggest trophy yet for the teachers’ union since money on the formula always gets eaten up in teacher salary negotiations. This takes pay-to-play to another level.
3. Huge surplus not enough, must raise taxes
Back in January, we were critical of Republicans for their message on the budget surplus. It seemed like a low bar to say, “with a surplus this big, Democrats should not consider tax increases.” They must have known something we didn’t because Democrats are proposing tax increases all over the place. This week, the omnibus transportation bill passed by the House includes an increase in car tab fees, an increase in the sales tax for the metro area and a new complicated tax on deliveries by Amazon, Door Dash and other retailers.
If you haven’t signed the petition against the car tab fee, click here.
4. Train to Duluth early favorite for Golden Turkey
Another item to note in the transportation bill: $194.3 million for the Northern Lights Express passenger train to run between Duluth and Minneapolis. This boondoggle is the early favorite for our 2023 Golden Turkey Award.
5. State giving away land to tribes
With the new woke trend of announcing land acknowledgements at the beginning of meetings and events sweeping Minnesota, it was only a matter of time before Native American tribes started asking for land to be returned. Forget the fact that the tribes were already compensated for the land by state and federal governments. The omnibus environment, natural resources, climate and energy finance bill includes the transfer of state-owned land within the boundaries of Upper Sioux Agency State Park to the Upper Sioux Community for no cost. In fact, the bill appropriates $5.3 million to facilitate the transfer. Presumedly the money will be used to purchase land somewhere else in Minnesota to replace the state park, as required by federal law.
This land transfer is being pushed by Gov. Walz through his DNR Commissioner Sarah Strommen against the wishes of every local elected official in Yellow Medicine County. In addition to free land, Minnesota’s 11 tribes are set to receive $75 million in cash from the House tax bill for a new Tribal Nation aid program. That’s a pretty good return on investment for their $1 million in campaign contributions to DFL candidates.
6. Huge surplus not enough, must raise taxes (revisited)
It’s not just the transportation bill that saw tax and fee increases. The omnibus environment bill contains several increases. A lifetime fishing license for adults would go from $574 to $689, registration for a boat bigger than 40 feet would go from $90 to $209, and a one-day state park parking pass would go from $7 to $10. A $17 billion surplus and families will have to pay more to go to a state park. You can’t make it up.
7. A new kind of tourism
Explore Minnesota took on a whole new meaning as the Senate passed two bills aimed at attracting people from other states to travel to Minnesota — for abortions and genital mutilation. The bills are more about virtue signaling than actually helping people. And both bills face constitutional questions as they attempt to usurp the power of other state’s courts.
Sen. Michael Kruen (R-Blaine) made an effective, dispassionate argument warning the proposals violate the Full Faith and Credit Clause of the United States Constitution. In the oratorial excellence we’ve come to expect from Democrats this year, Sen. Bonnie Westlin (DFL-Plymouth) rose and announced she was a lawyer with experience in family law. She then failed to address any of the legal arguments put forth by Sen. Kruen. The only thing that matters is the 34-33 margin.
8. National popular vote
Democrats like Secretary of State Steve Simon often brag about the fairness of Minnesota’s election system. So why would they take Minnesota voters out of the presidential election by handing our electoral college votes to whoever wins the national popular vote? Don’t they realize future presidential elections will be waged completely in large cities on the coasts like New York and Los Angeles? Their obsession with Donald Trump is driving Democrats in Minnesota to adopt National Popular Vote legislation (passed in the House this week) so that the orange man can never win the presidency again.
9. Nurses will now run hospitals
The “Keeping Nurses at the Bedside Act” was part of a huge omnibus human services bill passed this week in the Senate. While its name evokes images of Florence Nightingale, the bill basically puts nurses in charge of hospitals. If nurses get to decide how many need to be on a given shift, everyone will pay more for hospital stays. The nurses’ union has been trying to pass nurse staffing ratios for years and now their campaign contributions to Democrats will pay off.
10. Death panels
The human services bill also included the creation of a new Healthcare Affordability Board. The Board will make decisions about healthcare coverage and the cost of prescription drugs. Senior Policy Fellow Peter Nelson summed it up this way:
The hard truth is that any blunt mandate to lower health care costs will likely come at the expense of the most vulnerable patients. This includes people with expensive chronic conditions, the disabled and the elderly. That’s simply because these are the high-cost patients. Targeting the cost of their care will offer the path of least resistance to meet the government cost control mandate.
Gee, this sounds a lot like those death panels we were told wouldn’t happen if we passed Obamacare.
Looking ahead: Legalization of recreational marijuana is on the floor of the House Monday. More on that in the next Capitol Watch.
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The legislature appropriates more money, the unions grab it for salaries, the school board cuts middle school band, and everyone blames the legislature for underfunding. Rinse and repeat.