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Revised budget better, but still not enough

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Gov. Mark Dayton recently made it official that he is backing off from his proposals to expand sales taxes to services like auto work and haircuts. He also is cutting his plan to create a business-to-business sales tax.

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It had become quite clear the governor lacked support from citizens, businesses, local governments and both sides of the aisle in the Legislature. The business-to-business tax would have cost our shops an estimated $1.5 billion in 2015 alone. Taxes seem to always bring unintended consequences. In this case, businesses would have been forced to either raise prices for consumers, trim workers’ hours, cut back on staff, or even close their doors. This is not what we need as we continue working to recover from a severe recession.

Dayton’s revised budget still includes a spending increase of $2.7 billion over 2012-13. He proposes raising taxes by $1.8 billion. Tax increases the governor retained in his new plan include: $1.1 billion on the top 2 percent of earners, $30 million on snowbirds, $317 million on cigarettes, and a metro transit sales tax plan (which may increase from .25 to .5).

The governor still would not pay back delayed school funding and withdraws his initial budget’s proposal of repaying it in 2016-17. This is disappointing because repaying school debt should be a top priority and has bipartisan support in the Legislature.

The House recently gave final passage to a bill to establish a state-run health insurance exchange. Our choices were to set up a state exchange or to accept a national exchange operated by the federal government through the Affordable Care Act. House language including a 3.5-percent tax on premiums was adopted in the bill’s final form. An amendment the House added preventing abortions from being funded through this program was stripped from the bill by a conference committee. The bill passed by a vote of 72-61 with no Republican members of the House voting in support of the bill.

I voted against this because serious issues regarding consumer privacy, choice and costs remained even as we debated final passage of the bill. Patient data could be accessed by the federal government, there is no guarantee patients will be able to see their preferred doctor at their convenience, and the system will cost hundreds of millions of dollars to simply operate.

The governor himself called this plan “a big gamble” during a recent interview.

Rep. Bud Nornes

Fergus Falls, MN

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