Legislators mostly pleased with session
Republican legislators representing the Osakis area were mostly satisfied with the outcome of the legislative session, which wrapped up May 25.
Sen. Bill Ingebrigtsen, R-Alexandria who represents Osakis in District 8, said Senate Republicans held firm on their opposition to Gov. Tim Walz's transportation tax increases — that included a 20-cent gas tax — and instead pushed for a permanent cut in the middle-income tax rate.
Ingebrigtsen said the cut will deliver tax relief for millions of taxpayers and is the state's first permanent income tax cut in 18 years. He added the final budget deal also includes increased funding for K-12 schools, a top priority for both Walz and Senate Republicans.
"Republicans have spent the past several months promising a different governing mentality focused on the middle-class and our taxpayers, and today we delivered on that promise," Ingebrigtsen said in a statement. "With this budget agreement, we were able to stop an immensely regressive gas tax, attacks on our Second Amendment, and driver's licenses for illegal immigrants while providing income tax cuts for nearly the first time in two decades, make critical investments in our schools, and usher in important budget reform for health care."
Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka, who represents the Osakis area in Todd County's District 9, was also pleased with the results of the session.
"Ultimately, our budget did what we all agreed was best for Minnesotans," Gazelka said. "We held the line on raising new taxes and kept spending focused on priorities."
Gazelka listed other accomplishments — reforms to lower costs in Health and Human Services, more funding for students and for roads, bipartisan agreements on hands-free driving, elder care protections, an opioids crisis response, and fixing MNLARS — the state's vehicle registration program.
"Minnesotans can be proud of the work we accomplished in 2019," Gazelka said.
The session wasn't all sunshine and roses, however.
State Representative Mary Franson, R-Alexandria, who represents District 8B in Osakis, called the two-day special session "the least transparent I have seen in my tenure as a state representative."
Franson said most of the bills in the special session were decided using what came to be known as the "tribunal" made up of Gov. Walz, House Speaker Melissa Hortman and Gazelka.
Franson was glad that the majority of the controversial policies that initially passed the House were eliminated from the final budget bills, including the 20-cent per gallon gas tax; fee increases on transportation expenses and outdoor recreation activities; both gun control bills; a $68 million cut to Minnesota nursing homes; policies that would have moved Minnesota closer to becoming a sanctuary state; and giving driver's licenses to illegal aliens.
"Republicans were able to stand strong and include some great provisions in the state budget," she said in her weekly newsletter. "Included in the bills were an extension of the reinsurance program, which was a Republican initiative that held down health care costs for the last several years, reversal of the 7 percent cut to the Disability Waiver Rate System, and funding for youth firearm safety training. Unfortunately, Democrats insisted on increasing the price of doctor visits, hospital stays, and medical procedures by bringing back the 'sick tax' at 1.8 percent."