From: Rep. Steve Drazkowski
On February 25, lawmakers returned to the State Capitol in St. Paul in order to begin the 2014 legislative session. Though it’s being advertised by Democratic leadership as the “unsession” — where the Legislature would focus on eliminating unnecessary or redundant laws — it’s clear they will also be pushing forward another controversial agenda.
Remember, Democrats control the House, Senate, and Governor’s Office. This is the same crew that raised taxes and fees on all hardworking Minnesotans by $450 for every man, woman, and child in 2013, implemented the costly and ineffective MNsure/Obamacare debacle, and then rewarded themselves by sneaking language for a new $90 million Senate Office Building and parking lot into a taxes bill during the final hours of session.
In other words, we could spend a great deal of time this session fixing the Democrats’ mistakes. I don’t expect that will happen, but I do expect these DFL priorities will make the most legislative headlines in 2014:
Government-imposed minimum wage: Both DFL leaders in the House and Senate have pledged to raise Minnesota’s $6.15 minimum wage this year; the only detail remaining is the final figure. The House passed a $9.50 minimum wage bill last year.
My view: Increased labor costs will also lead to higher prices at restaurants and grocery stores, as owners pass the costs on to the customer. It will also lead to higher unemployment, and if you don’t believe me, read a recent report by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget office. It found a gradual increase to the federal minimum wage to $10.10 an hour could cost half a million jobs around the nation. Other economic studies show that every 10 percent increase in the minimum wage leads to a one to three percent decrease in employment opportunities for low-skill and young workers. It’s a move that sounds great at face value, but inevitably we will pay more for products and have fewer job opportunities if the Democrats go overboard on their final number. The federal minimum wage is $7.25.
Bullying: Democratic leadership says it will push to pass a top-down, statewide anti-bullying proposal that forces schools to investigate all alleged cases of bullying and train teachers to spot and prevent it. Not included: funds to pay for anti-bullying programs and teacher training. Expected cost: $50 million unfunded mandate on Minnesota’s schools.
My view: Everyone agrees bullying cannot be tolerated, which is why we have a law in place that requires schools to develop and implement their own anti-bullying policies. The school administrators in our district have reported to me that their policies are working and that bullying is under control. Instead the Democrats want to place a one-size-fits-all program in place and take this decision making away from school boards — leveling an unfunded mandate on them in the process. We elect school boards for a reason — to make local decisions in the best interests of their students. Creating an effective anti-bullying policy should be left to school districts.
Transportation funding: Some Democrats have already discussed raising the gasoline tax between five and ten cents per gallon, as well as the Metro Area Sales Tax by another half-cent in order to help fund a light rail line between Eden Prairie and Minneapolis.
My view: Minnesotans are paying $3.45 per gallon as I write this, and they cannot afford another ten-cent per gallon increase. There’s no doubt our roads and bridges need improvement, so just once, why not use our bonding bill for this purpose? Instead of wasting another $1 billion on projects that have little statewide significance, why not use most of that total to repair deteriorating roads around the state?
Regarding the Metro Area Sales Tax, pay no attention to the label. Rural Minnesotans will eventually help pay for another light rail line that we’ll never use. It costs tens of millions for continued light rail operational costs, which are paid through Minnesota’s General Fund — the place where your income and sales taxes are collected.
As session moves forward, please feel free to contact me at any time about these or any other legislative issue. I can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org, or by phone at 651-296-2273.
Thank you for the privilege of serving your interests in St. Paul, and I hope to hear from you soon.