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Letter: ‘5 percent campaign’ gains some momentum

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By District 22A Rep. Joe Schomacher, R-Luverne

This session I’ve been closely tracking the progress of the 5 Percent Campaign, which provides a full five-percent rate increase to people receiving disability and elderly-care services. The legislation caught its first break Monday, as full funding for the program was finally added to the House version of the 2014 supplementary budget. For the last two weeks I’ve been disappointed and actively critical of proposals that fell short in providing the needed funding.

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Until Monday, full funding for this widely bipartisan measure was met with opposition due to process. Currently, the raise for the workers of our elderly and disabled is moving in a 600-page omnibus bill that is expected to be taken up on the House floor later this week. I was hopeful that instead of burying the provision, we’d highlight it with a clean up or down vote on the floor. Instead, we’ll likely only see it attached to unrelated provisions on bee-safety and light rail funding.

Farmers won’t see refund from last week’s tax fix

Lost in the hoopla surrounding a new law that eliminates some of last session’s unnecessary tax increases is a provision that deals a blow to Minnesota’s farmers.

While the farm equipment repair tax is going away, the legislative majority refused to make the law retroactive. This means if you were forced to pay sales taxes to repair a tractor or any other piece of work equipment, even if you saved your receipts, you will not get your money back from the state of Minnesota.

This is extremely disappointing since nearly half a billion dollars remains from our state surplus, which would be more than enough to repay farmers for their unneeded tax contributions. In addition, considering the failure to have the implementation of this new tax ready from day one, many small business workers in our area were left in limbo for how they were supposed to collect and submit the tax. Now it seems that additional burden was for naught.

Transportation bill sets new precedent

A proposed $750 million in annual tax increases mostly for transit spending was introduced as a more modest bill this week. Spending $50 million in General Funds and $50 million in Trunk Highway Funds, the bill adds more regulations and assessments on private industry, railroads and pipelines at a time when we should be encouraging greater build-out of these systems to transport energy and heating sources to Minnesotans who need them.

Notable spending items include $15 million to the Metropolitan Council, largely for bus rapid transit (while the Met Council sits on a $700 million reserve), $10 million for winter-related trunk highway repair, $5 million for railroad grade crossing safety, nearly $4 million for winter-related county state-aid road repair and tens of thousands of dollars for free statewide transit on Election Day.

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