Local legislators talk 2023 session during Worthington forum

Sen. Bill Weber and Reps. Joe Schomacker and Marj Fogelman were in Worthington on Saturday for a legislative breakfast.

Close-up of Minnesota Capitol dome
Don Davis / Forum News Service file photo

WORTHINGTON — Local legislators gathered in Worthington Saturday morning to meet with community members and discuss what is ahead, and what’s already passed, for the 2023 legislative session.

Held at the Worthington Fire Hall and organized by FORWARD Worthington’s Governmental Affairs Committee, the event began at 8 a.m. with coffee, donuts and the arrival of local state representatives.

Bill Weber

Rep. Joe Schomacker (R- Luverne) and Sen. Bill Weber (R - Luverne) are familiar faces in Worthington, serving their respective seventh and fourth terms, albeit in slightly different parameters since the 2022 redistricting of Minnesota’s Congressional, House and Senate districts. For political newcomer Rep. Marj Fogelman (R- Fulda), this marks her first term as the representative for District 21B, and her first legislative breakfast in Worthington.

Throughout the hour, the legislators took questions from the crowd, with Minnesota’s $17 billion-plus surplus dominating much of the conversation, even as the discussion moved to subjects like education, job development and public safety.

“I think every single budget has some type of tax or some type of fee associated with it,” said Schomacker. “That's going to collect more money on top of what we already have, and so a lot of us are asking the question ‘Why are we raising tax and fees on things when we already have billions of dollars in state money that's already in the coffers?’… Just by looking at this year, the state really feels more like a Community Foundation than it does a governing body.”


Joe Schomacker
Joe Schomacker
Joe Schomacker

Schomacker said he would have liked to see a “different approach” to funding existing programs throughout the state to “really shore up” and expand what already exists instead of allotting funding for grants for new organizations.

As both the Minnesota House and Senate begin considering a series of omnibus bills, dealing with everything from healthcare, education, transportation and public safety, the debate over how to spend the state’s surplus is taking place alongside talks of additional fees and taxes. A proposed 75-cent delivery fee as part of the transportation package to fund road repairs in the state drew comments from each of the visiting lawmakers, with Weber stating the imposed fee would be a greater burden for seniors and people with medical complications who are reliant on home delivery.

Marj Fogelman

“All it takes is one taxable item to generate the delivery fee,” he said. “Fortunately, at this point, in the Senate (the tax provision) has been removed. We'll have to watch the conference committee, because I'm sure unless something changes in the House and they remove it there, it will be an item that will get covered.”

The senator went on to voice similar concerns about funding going toward new programs and non-profit organizations.

“We see this time and time again — they're spending money and extending it out to these non-profit organizations without any guardrails and that's a very challenging and very disturbing thing," Weber said. "Like I said, some of them will go do good things with that money; others, I'm not so sure.”

The topic of whether or not Minnesotans should expect to see a bonding bill pass this session was also raised, after the $1.5 billion bill failed to pass in the Senate last month. Over the last two years, Minnesota has failed to pass a bonding bill, which helps fund capital investment projects like water and road infrastructure, among others, with the understanding that borrowed bonds will be repaid at a later date.

A bonding bill passed earlier this session in the House having gained the necessary two-thirds vote with bipartisan effort, but failed to garner the same support in the Senate to meet the supermajority required for a bonding bill.

“I don’t really know where it's all going to shake out at the end of the day,” said Weber on the stalled bill and what it would take to pass the Senate. “I mean, we certainly want to see a bonding bill.… There are a variety of things that need to be done. I have no problem supporting a bonding bill. But again, we have looked at that and said, 'Why are we going to head immediately, early in the process, incurring debt onto the people of Minnesota when we've got this surplus that we’re not providing any return to them?'"


Weber also said there has been talk of an over $2 billion cash bill to fund capital investment projects throughout the state, which wouldn’t require a supermajority to pass, but that he doubted was something members of the DFL party wanted to commit funding to, having “already spent that money elsewhere.”

“It's just frustrating when you have this huge surplus that we have and we want to ask all the taxpayers to borrow some more money — especially when interest is so high right now,” Fogelman added. She opposed the bonding bill in the House, while Schomacker voted for it.

“We’ll go for anything we can get in our region and try to make that work,” said Schomacker. “That's been my approach on things, and as we move forward this year, I think the state's going to look a bit different after this session and the next session too.”

Headliners Chase Matthew and Fabulous Armadillos will take the stage Friday and Saturday, respectively, along with a well-rounded selection of opening acts.
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Emma McNamee joined The Globe team in October 2021 as a reporter covering Crime & Courts, Politics, and the City beats. Born and raised in Duluth, Minn., McNamee left her hometown to attend school in Chicago at Columbia College. She graduated in 2021 with a degree in Multimedia Journalism, with a concentration in News & Feature Writing and a minor in Creative Writing.
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