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Ingebrigtsen: Budget, tax plans debated at Legislature

Editor's note: The following is legislative update from State Senator Bill Ingebrigtsen, R-Alexandria.


Last week we took our first look at some proposed budget bills, as well as the Senate DFL's $2

billion tax increase plan. The DFL report calls for an overall reduction in the general sales tax

rate combined with new sales taxes on goods and services including all clothing items, personal

services including haircuts, and auto repair. Also included in the plan is an affiliate nexus tax,

also referred to as the "Amazon tax" and new sales tax on digital downloads. The largest tax

increase in the Division report is a $0.94 per pack increase in the cigarette tax, identical to

Governor Dayton's tax plan.

Overall, this proposal represents about $400 million of the Senate DFL's $2 billion in taxes

required to support their budget framework. It currently does not include the more controversial

small business (business-to-business) sales taxes. A better approach in my opinion, before we

take another dime from hardworking taxpayers, would be to go line-by-line through our budget

and cut the waste. Our government clearly could be more efficient and effective, and definitely

shouldn't be more expensive. They're wasting our money in budget proposals to pay for

snowmaking in northern Minnesota, the creation of a new 11-member commission to determine

paint colors on bridges, and taxpayer-funded trips to Bora Bora, Costa Rica and New Zealand.

Lastly, we learned in a report from the Minnesota Management and Budget

Department that our state government took in an extra $145 million - 6 percent more than originally

predicted in the last two months. This news shows our economy is improving and we don't need

to ask hardworking taxpayers to pay more. We just need to spend better.


This week we also got our first look at the governor's capital investment proposal - also known

as his bonding proposal for public construction projects. The Governor's plan will borrow and

spend $750 million of taxpayer money. The House DFL also released their bonding proposal

that borrows $858 million. This is odd because we typically do bonding on even numbered years,

not odd. This is a budget year which is what we should be focused on. Again, we need to make sure we're using hardworking taxpayer dollars as effectively and

efficiently as possible and not wasting them. We all agree that our state needs to keep up our

roads, bridges, and ailing infrastructure on large statewide projects, but I'm concerned about

spending millions of hardworking taxpayer dollars on questionable projects and only 3 percent spent

on bridge repair and replacement. In addition, there are nearly $3 billion of bonding projects

currently in the pipeline - $2.66 billion in authorized bonds that haven't been spent yet. Rather

than rack up another $800 million on the taxpayer's credit card, we need to cut the waste before

we take on more debt and look carefully at the importance of all the projects to our state.


Comprehensive funding and policy bills rolled out of Senate Education Budget Divisions this

week. The Higher Education Omnibus Bill and the K-12 Education Omnibus bill spend $2.8

billion and $15.7 billion respectively, which amount to nearly 49 percent of our overall state

budget. Higher education saw a three-way split of new funds between student financial aid, the

University of Minnesota, and the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities. It is believed the

new aid will hold tuition increases at a minimum. In K-12, the new funds are used to increase

both overall funding for public schools as well as to buy-down school property taxes. However,

objections were raised over what seems to be a retreat from accountability. Current law requiring

both prospective teachers and high school graduates to reach a passing mark on statewide exams

would be weakened.


This week the Health and Human Services Finance Committee continued hearing bills for

possible inclusion in the larger omnibus bill, as well as parts of the Governor's HHS budget,

which is SF 1034. The Health and Human Services Omnibus bill is expected to be introduced to

the committee on Monday, April 15 and is expected to be in Full Finance Committee by

Thursday, April 18.


The State Departments and Veterans Finance Division passed its Omnibus State Government

Finance Bill last Tuesday. It includes elimination of the Sunset Commission (a committee that

looks for government waste), salary increases for the Governor and state agency heads, and

$26.1 million in increased General Fund spending.


Ingebrigtsen encourages constituent input, and can be reached at (651)

297-8063, by mail at 143 State Office Building, 100 Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd., St. Paul, MN

55155, or via e-mail at