This guest column was written by State Rep. Bud Nornes, R-Fergus Falls.
The 2020 legislative session begins Feb. 11 and I look forward to the challenges that await. While it is true that I will not be seeking re-election this November, I remain committed to working on behalf of the people in District 8A until my current term expires at the start of January 2021.
That means nearly a full year remains before I finish my 12th legislative term, so let’s have a strong finish. The state has a projected $1.332 billion surplus for FY 2020-21 even after $284 million is allocated to the budget reserve, bringing that account to the target level of $2.359 billion.
This excess revenue collection means that, even though the two-year state budget already was enacted last year, we have a great opportunity to revisit our finances and provide relief for Minnesotans. For instance, this surplus is enough to fully repeal last year’s harmful health care tax extension and lower health care costs. We also could reduce the state tax on Social Security to help our seniors.
Regardless, it should make tax increases nonstarters in 2020. The House majority and the governor spent last session pushing $12 billion in tax hikes that would cripple our economy and reverse the economic growth generated by tax cuts. That idea is just as bad this year as it was in 2019.
Even-numbered years traditionally are when the Legislature considers capital investment bills to bond for projects throughout the state. We can get into this in more detail as things develop but, for now, the House Democrats and the governor are looking to borrow record-setting amounts in the multi-billion-dollar range. Bonding bills require a super-majority vote to pass and it is hard to see House Republicans supporting such huge price tags.
Another major challenge this session will be to bring a much-needed overhaul to the Minnesota Department of Human Services. This is our state’s largest agency and it has been mired in waste, fraud, abuse and significant staff turmoil during recent months.
Minnesota taxpayers deserve to know their tax dollars are being used responsibly and the dysfunction at DHS cannot be allowed to continue. There should be consequences for the improper overpayments and violations of state contract laws. Look for proposals to be discussed that would reform DHS by increasing transparency, accountability and taxpayer protection.