Carla Nelson: Tax relief must take precedence in Legislature
It’s the No. 1 thing I hear -- you want us to give the surplus back. I agree. Minnesotans are struggling, and if we cannot provide substantial tax relief with our current budget surplus, when will we?
As the legislative session enters its final weeks, there is a growing sense of urgency around the capitol to complete our work.
Democrats hold the "trifecta" of state government control, and their agenda has been much more partisan than many of us had hoped. Frankly, it is quite out of step with the feedback I am hearing from constituents almost every day. Despite that, I remain committed to working across the aisle to find bipartisan, commonsense solutions to the priorities of Minnesota families, such as relief from high inflation, superb schools, public safety, and critical infrastructure.
Tax relief and the surplus
In February, we learned that Minnesota has amassed a staggering $19 billion surplus. Due to a new law Democrats in the Legislature adopted, $1.5 billion of that was spent automatically, leaving us with a surplus of $17.5 billion.
This substantial surplus confirms that Minnesotans are overtaxed, which is why I have prioritized returning the surplus to taxpayers through permanent, significant tax relief.
As chair of the Senate Tax Committee last year, my Democratic counterpart in the House and I agreed on a historic $4 billion tax relief bill that would have completely eliminated the state's tax on Social Security benefits and provided tax relief to every single income taxpayer. This incredible bill garnered bipartisan support, but unfortunately, it never became law due to House Democrat leaders' refusal to bring it to a vote before the session's end.
That bill now serves as the foundation of the Republican tax relief proposal. It’s the number one thing I hear everywhere I go – you want us to give the surplus back. I agree. Minnesotans are struggling, and if we cannot provide substantial tax relief with our current budget surplus, when will we ever?
Disappointingly, when Governor Walz and Democrat leaders in the House and Senate revealed their budget framework in late March, they spent nearly the entire surplus, proposing a $70 billion budget that represents a government growth of over 30%. When was the last time your paycheck increased that much?
Borrowing and key infrastructure
The rules of the Senate require a three-fifths supermajority vote of the Senate in order to pass a borrowing bill, also known as a bonding bill. This is a much higher threshold than a simple majority. This rule effectively means that bonding bills must have bipartisan support.
At the outset of session, we informed our colleagues that both bonding and tax relief must be top priorities, and therefore must be done at the same time — as has been past practice. Given the size of our state budget surplus, it would be irresponsible to pass a bonding bill before we help out Minnesotans who are struggling.
We endeavored to find a compromise that would allow us to do both bills right away, but unfortunately, our attempts to work together were rejected by Senate Democrat leaders. I even offered a simple tax relief amendment that would have helped us get both bills across the finish line, but that too was rejected. Instead of working with us, they chose to bring up a bonding bill, knowing it would not have enough votes to pass. Indeed, it did not receive a single bipartisan vote. Minnesotans expect us to deliver results, so that political gamesmanship was disappointing.
I remain a staunch supporter of bonding. There are a number of critical infrastructure projects in Dodge and Olmsted Counties that require funding, and I committed to getting those done. However, easing the financial burden on Minnesotans must take precedence. I am optimistic that we can accomplish both objectives before the session concludes.
What comes next
Over the coming weeks, the Senate and House will pass budget bills for each issue area. These complex bills cover a multitude of topics and will be voted on by the House and Senate individually before a conference committee resolves any differences. The compromise bill will then be voted on and sent to the governor for approval or veto. In short, there is still much work to be done.
As we approach the session's end, my priority remains steadfast: to do what is best for the people of Dodge and Olmsted Counties, and empower Minnesotans – not grow state government. The priorities I am hearing about every day are straightforward: significant tax relief, an infrastructure bill focused on vital projects, real funding increases for our classrooms, enhancing public safety, and more. That’s what I will continue to focus on.
Sen. Carla Nelson is a Republican who represents Minnesota Senate District 24, covering parts of Rochester and Olmsted County, and all of Dodge County. She has been in the Senate since 2011, and prior to that served one term in the Minnesota House.