DFLers move bill to make Minnesota’s sales tax joint highest in America
Two weeks ago I wrote about a proposal from some DFL legislators in St. Paul to hike Minnesota’s state sales tax, with the revenue dedicated to housing programs. Now, the…
The 2024 legislative session begins Monday with Gov. Tim Walz telling the Star Tribune “this is going to be one of the more challenging sessions that I’ve had as governor because you’ve got to say no to your friends.” These are the kinds of things Walz always says at the beginning of legislative sessions. Democrats sound like fiscal conservatives in January but always end up spending every available dollar to grow state government and satisfy the “friends” that put them into office. Public employee unions (including teachers) are at the top of the friends list.
With the Democrats still firmly in control of the levers of power for at least one more session, Minnesota taxpayers are left to hope they’ll go easy on us after the historic 2023 session, which American Experiment dubbed “Off the Ciff.” But hope is not a strategy so here are the top issues where Minnesotans should look to make a difference during the 2024 session.
Once upon a time in America we used to pass the state budget in odd years and a borrowing bill in even years. Then they figured out there was nothing technically preventing them from doing a borrowing bill every year, so now that’s what we do. Last year, they passed a $2.6 billion borrowing bill full of local pork projects and cash for their favorite non-profit organizations. This year Gov. Walz is promising “restraint” with his $1 billion proposal.
Historically, state borrowing authority was expressly used for projects with statewide significance, but with each passing bonding bill, the balance between statewide priorities and local projects gets more out of whack. The 2023 bill was full of hockey rinks, swimming pools, curling clubs and the National Loon Center in Nisswa. This year’s proposal includes money for the state zoo (again), the Perpich Center for the Arts (which should be closed), and $40 million for local city projects approved by the legislature. Gov. Walz told the press, “We’re finally seeing the golden age of construction and infrastructure in Minnesota.” Did he mean golden age or Golden Turkey? Because many of the projects funded in this bonding proposal will likely end up as Golden Turkey nominees.
A bonding bill requires a supermajority from the legislature to pass so this is the only time during session Democrats will have to work with Republicans. But don’t look to Republicans to take on the role of fiscal conservatives here — so far they’re just advocating for their fair share of projects in Republican districts.
School Resource Officer Fix
The first priority for the legislature will be to fix the School Resource Officer (SRO) language passed in the 2023 session. The bill caused many police chiefs to pull their SROs out of the schools because according to the new law, they would be treated as school employees instead of police officers when it came to their ability to keep the peace on school property. With today’s anti-police prosecutors (especially in Ramsey and Hennepin County), many SROs found themselves in an impossible situation. Early drafts of legislation to fix the problem appear to return police to the jurisdiction of their chiefs even while on school grounds. Gov. Walz favors this approach, but it remains to be seen if the defund-the-police crowd in the House of Representatives will back the change.
One indication the Democratic trifecta might continue the trend of liberal legislation from 2023 is the introduction of a bill making Minnesota a sanctuary state. Even with everything going on at the southern border, Democrats are pushing through a bill that will prohibit state and local governments from cooperating with federal immigration authorities such as Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). As Bill Glahn explains here, schools in Minneapolis are already feeling the effects of our open border but law enforcement will be the real focus of this misguided effort.
New Clean Fuel Standard
Last year’s California fuel standard legislation has been updated and made worse for 2024. This new, more extreme proposal has been rebranded as a “Clean Transportation Standard,” or CTS, that will make Minnesota’s fuel mandates the most extreme, and most expensive, in the country, surpassing California, Oregon, and Washington. American Experiment is branding this effort a stealth gas tax because the plan will raise the cost of gas in Minnesota by 39 to 45 cents per gallon, for no good reason! Click here for more information and to send an email to your legislators opposing the CTS.
Culture of Death
Since the 2023 session wiped away every restriction on abortion, the 2024 legislature is going to tackle the other end of the spectrum with a bill allowing patients who are suffering terminal illnesses and have less than six months to live to self-administer drugs to end their own lives. Since the law does not require patients to be Minnesota residents, this could add to Gov. Walz’s new efforts to attract people to the state for abortion, sex change operations and now assisted suicide.
Two constitutional amendments might be debated in 2024, although Speaker of the House Melissa Hortman (DFL-Brooklyn Park) recently said one might have to wait for 2026. Democrats across the country have been capitalizing on voters’ fears about losing access to abortion and the next frontier is state constitutional amendments. Hortman said they need more time to build a campaign for the amendment so they’re waiting for 2026. No doubt the fact that Walz is on the ballot in 2026 has more to do with the delay.
Another constitutional amendment proposes to continue the bad trend of dedicating tax revenue for specific purposes, in this case housing.
Fixes from 2023
One of the characteristics of the 2023 session was all the mistakes that were made as Democrats took the state Off the Cliff with their overwhelming agenda. In addition to the high-profile SRO issue, Legislative fixes will be necessary in the free school lunch program, the marijuana legalization bill, and to fix a glaring error in the tax code that would cost taxpayers over $300 million if left as-is.
There is one big change in legislative leadership for 2024 as Senate Majority Leader Kari Dziedzic (DFL-Minneapolis) stepped down as leader to fight her battle with cancer and was replaced by Sen. Erin Murphy (DFL-St Paul). Murphy represents the more liberal wing of the Senate DFL caucus and her leadership could set up some interesting votes in a body controlled by just one vote. Murphy was defeated by Walz in the 2014 DFL primary election so the dynamic between these leaders could also be interesting to watch.
This post was originally sent to subscribers of the Capitol Watch email. To subscribe and see this content first throughout the legislative session, click here.
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