Rep. Patricia Mueller: $7.7 billion surplus requires thoughtful consideration

Published 6:18 pm Friday, January 21, 2022

We recently learned that the state has a historic surplus of $7.7 billion. How a legislator approaches a surplus reveals their philosophy of governance. Since the surplus news broke, politicians of all stripes have come out backing policies on either extreme – either to give the entire $7.7 billion to taxpayers with no consideration for future budget commitments, or to spend it all on ongoing “historic investments,” which would cause a future budget crunch.

With the new legislative session beginning in less than two weeks, my priorities for the session are simple: repay the Unemployment Insurance trust fund deficit, pass needed policy advancements like my short-call substitute teachers bill to help our struggling schools, make good investments in infrastructure, and update tax codes so that the government cannot collect more money than necessary.

Last month, the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development imposed an unemployment insurance tax increase on Minnesota businesses to cover the money we owe the federal government for covering unemployment insurance benefits. This tax increase began Jan. 1. Many business owners have written to me asking for relief by repaying the Unemployment Insurance trust fund. It is unconscionable to force job providers to pay higher taxes when Minnesota has a nearly $8 billion surplus.

We also need to pass my short-call sub bill to help schools provide teachers in classrooms and prevent districts from having to make the hard decision to turn to distance learning because there aren’t enough teachers to staff classrooms. Last session, HF699 was supported by school districts across the state. It was disappointing to watch legislation fail because of partisan squabbles, despite such broad support from the public. During the interim, I have been working with interest groups and members from the majority party to create policy change that will provide districts more autonomy in the substitute teachers they hire and expanded opportunity for those who want to become substitute teachers.

I want to see good investments in infrastructure, like broadband and the Austin wastewater treatment plant project that I have been fighting for since the day I was sworn in. Updating the treatment plant will not only provide a more efficient way for clean drinking water, it will also better protect the environment in Austin. These funds have been requested for the last 10 years; this year is the time to provide these funds along with smart investments in our roads and bridges.

Finally, we need structural changes to our tax code. Minnesota is one of the highest taxed states in the union and it is time to make long-term changes to provide relief, especially relief for our seniors. It is time to end the tax on social security benefits. Our seniors should be able to afford to retire here in Minnesota, instead of being forced to move because of the heavy tax burden.

Please don’t hesitate to contact my office if you have thoughts or concerns about issues coming before the legislature this session