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Minnesota political news from an insider’s perspective.
We have to pass the bill to find out how much it costs
A new trend emerged this week in the Minnesota legislature as Democrats ram through their agenda at record speed. The lack of fiscal notes. In normal times, fiscal notes are created to predict how much a legislative proposal will cost. With a constitutional mandate for a balanced budget, it’s a good idea to know how much things cost before we pass them. But not this year.
A prime example is the proposal for a new paid family leave program. The plan (HF 2) includes a huge tax increase on employees and employers and anticipates a new state-run bureaucracy with as many as 300 employees. It will also require a massive software system — think MnSure or MNLARS. As of this writing, the bill has moved through five House committees without a fiscal note.
It’s not unprecedented for a bill to move through a policy committee while the fiscal note is being prepared, but until this year, a bill that spends money would have been delayed in a finance committee until the fiscal note was complete.
When asked about the lack of a fiscal note, bill author Rep. Ruth Richardson (DFL-Mendota Heights) responded with, “Minnesotans deserve access to paid family and medical leave. They’ve been waiting a long time.” Oh, ok. Minnesotans have been waiting a long time so we don’t need to know how much this will cost. Just pass it!
When concerns were raised about the costs of the bill to local governments like cities, counties and school districts, Richardson responded with this bit of logic:
“I think it’s also important when we’re analyzing the numbers that we also analyze the cost of not doing this program.”
I can tell you the cost of not doing this program, Rep. Richardson. It would be zero. Zero money set aside from the surplus, zero money taken from every paycheck, zero money paid by every business, non-profit, city, county and school board. Zero money paid by Minnesota as one of the largest employers in the state. Zero.
The cost of paid family leave for school districts is an interesting challenge for Democrats who are also intent on “fully funding” K-12 schools. As employee-driven enterprises, paid family leave will be particularly expensive for school districts. In fact, the Minnesota School Boards Association testified against the bill. The way things are going in St. Paul, don’t be surprised if the legislature forces every other employee and employer to pick up the cost of paid family leave for school districts.
When Republican Representatives Jim Nash (R-Waconia) and Jon Koznick (R-Lakeville) moved to table the bill because of the lack of a fiscal note, Committee Chair Ginny Klevorn (DFL-Plymouth) responded with this revealing quote:
“With 1500 bills already being introduced this year by both Republicans and Democrats, we have overwhelmed our revisor’s office and we have overwhelmed our fiscal staff.”
A Democrat Chairwoman of a finance committee admitted in public that they are going so fast the non-partisan staff can’t even keep up. Again, in normal times this would be a shocking admission, but we are not in normal times. Early in the 2023 session, Speaker of the House Melissa Hortman (DFL-Brooklyn Park) used the Twitter hashtag #LFG (Let’s Effing Go) to announce both the pace of their work and how they would treat anyone getting in the way.
Abortion and transgenderism are the new Minnesota tourism
Minnesota is known for its lakes and rivers and tourism accounts for $16 billion in annual revenue, but Democrats in the legislature are hoping to add a new category to the Explore Minnesota brand: abortion on demand and no-questions-asked sex change surgeries. Two bills moving through the process seek to make Minnesota a “sanctuary state” for those seeking abortion and “gender affirming care” from other, more restrictive states.
Gov. Walz is on record declaring he would not extradite any woman who sought an abortion in Minnesota if another state tried to arrest her. When asked recently how he would attract people to Minnesota from other states, Walz had abortion rights at the top of his list saying, “Women’s rights and women’s choices on their own reproductive rights are going to be protected in Minnesota.”
A “trans refuge” bill (SF 63) got hearings in both the Senate and House last week. The bill sets up a convoluted process whereby parents from other states who are seeking treatment they call “gender affirming care” for their children in Minnesota, would be somehow protected from the laws in their home states. Gender affirming care is a euphemism for chemical castration and surgery to remove perfectly working body parts. It’s telling and ironic this bill makes changes to the statutes dealing with child custody.
Astute capitol observers (or readers of Capitol Watch) will notice that the House and Senate committees hearing the trans refuge bill both laid it over without taking a vote. While every other aspect of the DFL agenda is moving a breakneck speed, this bill did not move out of committee. I believe DFL leadership allowed the advocates their day in the sun but have no intention of making their caucuses walk the plank on this controversial subject.
Media watch – StarTribune discovers Blackout Bill
After the Blackout Bill passed the legislature and was signed into law by Gov. Walz, the StarTribune published a front-page article questioning the science and costs of switching to 100% carbon-free by 2040. The headline was Minnesota’s new clean power mandate poses thorny and expensive challenges. Reactions to the article ranged from “Ya think?” to “Now they tell us!”
The piece contained information on the challenges of meeting this goal that until now were kept secret from the public and legislature. Unless of course you follow American Experiment online, read this report or were one of the nearly 13,000 Minnesotans who sent an email to Gov. Walz warning him this bill will raise costs, cause blackouts and not help the environment. The “I told you so” moment is happening even faster than we predicted.
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