Legislative Update – June 2013

I would first like to share some truly good news with you. In the previous legislative session the Republican majority dealt with a $5.2 billion dollar 2012/2013 projected budget deficit by thoughtfully improving the efficiency of state government while not adding any new taxes or increasing any existing tax rates. Our strategy worked! So far in the current 2012/2013 biennium, the two-year budget period ending June 30, 2013, an additional $3.1 billion in revenues over projections have been received by the state. These surplus funds, as required by law, were first used to replenish the state’s cash and budget reserve accounts and then pay back school districts all the funds borrowed during the 2012/2013 biennium and most of what was borrowed during the 2010/2011 biennium.

Unfortunately, the Democrat majority this year dealt with a $627 million dollar 2014/2015 projected budget deficit, by imposing $2.1 billion in new taxes and increased tax rates on hard-working Minnesota families and businesses. Someone recently asked me how it was serving on the House Tax committee this year. I said it was a nightmare. Literally, it was a nightmare. The night before the final passage of the Omnibus Tax bill out of committee, I woke up at 3:00 a.m. remembering an experience my son had at family camp when he was a little boy. He won a fishing contest and received a large bag of candy as a prize; however, some big boys took away his candy and started handing it out as if it was their own. The Democrat’s Omnibus Tax bill feels too much like my bad dream.

Retroactive to the beginning of this year, the Democrat tax plan adds a 4th tier tax bracket of 9.85%, 4th highest state income tax rate in the nation, primarily penalizing those who make our state economy run. This new tax bracket will impact over 90% of business owners who pay their business taxes through their individual income tax and represents a 25% increase over the previous top Minnesota individual tax rate. The Omnibus Tax bill also includes new business to business warehousing, storage, and repair taxes which will impact all of us by raising the prices of basic necessities like food, gasoline, and products for our homes.

House File 826, the “Safe and Supportive Schools Act”, caused me great concern. Though no student should be bullied, the bill included a $52 million dollar unfunded mandate to schools, unclear and conflicting language, and denied students due process by allowing anonymous reporting. I am thankful the bill died in the Senate.

Another bill of great concern was House File 950/Senate File 778, the unionization of private, in-home, child care business owners and personal care attendants. A survey by the Minnesota Licensed Family Child Care Association showed 86% opposed to unionization. Nevertheless, this bill, allowing only half of providers a vote, was rammed through on the last day of session along party lines. Forcing these child care providers to pay union dues will only drive up costs for them and for the parents they serve. Unfortunately, the bill passed the House and Senate and was signed into law by the governor. Last week, child care providers filed a lawsuit to halt the implementation of the law. The attorney for the case believes the law will be ruled unconstitutional since it conflicts with federal labor law.

Finally, given only a few Republican chief-authored bills became law this year, I am pleased I was able to author two of them. House File 604 clarified the 2012 law I chief-authored requiring more transparency for public employee payouts. The bill was included in the Omnibus Data Practices bill which passed unanimously in the House and was signed into law by the governor. My work on this bill was featured in the June 9th, Pioneer Press, article “Minnesota: More light, but still loopholes, in public employee payouts” by Christopher Magan. My stand-alone bill, House File 817/Senate File 683, exempts CPAs from private detective licensure requirements while performing accounting services. This bill also passed the House unanimously and was signed into law by the governor.

Even though the legislature is adjourned until February 25th, 2014, please feel free to contact me with your comments or concerns. You are welcome to call me at home, (952) 894-0544; send me an email at Rep.Pam.Myhra@house.mn; or call my legislative assistant, Chelsey Whitman, at (651) 297-1934, to make an appointment for us to meet.