Sen. Gene Dornink: Democrats continue to fast-track controversial policies

Published 5:50 pm Friday, January 20, 2023

Friends and neighbors,

The first several weeks of session have been busy, with many pieces of legislation moving through committee and extensive debate being conducted on the Senate floor. And a significant, early session accomplishment is the Senate’s bipartisan passage of a key tax conformity bill.

This legislation, which was recently signed into law by the governor, will provide more than $100 million in tax relief for individuals and small businesses. It aligns Minnesota’s tax code with Federal tax adjustments, such as the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act from 2020. Many individuals and small businesses will receive much-needed financial relief through this legislation. However, it still leaves certain Minnesotans behind.

That is why Senate Republicans pushed to amend this bill to include the full elimination of the tax on Social Security and a reduction in personal income tax rates. Why is it, with a $17 billion surplus, we can’t help our seniors like most other states? Though these amendments were ultimately rejected by Senate Democrats, we will continue to fight for meaningful and permanent tax relief for hardworking Minnesotans. It is time to return Minnesota’s massive surplus to taxpayers.

Additionally, in the Senate Labor Committee, we recently heard a notable piece of legislation — the Senate Democrats’ paid family and medical leave establishment and appropriation proposal. This policy would create an enormous new state program that would take a one-size-fits-all approach. It would also impose a large, additional employer and employee tax and cost Minnesotans nearly $2 billion. Though I believe it is important to expand Minnesotans’ access to paid family and medical leave, the inflexible Democrat approach is wrong for our state.

Senate Republicans, therefore, proposed an alternative paid family and medical leave bill that would take a free-market approach and offer a program through private insurance. This legislation would create an insurance product precisely customized to paid family leave. Businesses can tailor it based on their employees’ unique needs, and it would help them afford to provide for paid family leave through insurance. This serves as the simplest and quickest approach, as it would be a private-sector program that would build on the expertise of businesses. Therefore, it could be launched sooner and guarantee more Minnesotans have access to leave quicker than any other path for paid family and medical leave.

Though the Democrats’ paid family and medical leave proposal is concerning, the way they have pushed this legislation through committee is equally troubling. Leading up to the recent committee hearings, there was little notice to affected communities, allowing them almost no time to sign-up and testify about the bill’s impact. Members of the committee, such as myself, also did not have enough time to discuss this bill thoroughly and ask our questions.

How can we pass such a major policy that ignores our farmers, small businesses, and the (approximately 80%) of businesses that already offer paid family leave? Instead of limiting the voice of the public, it is essential for all legislation to be given proper consideration and review. We need to find a workable solution for everyone. Democrats, however, continue to only listen to their political base and ignore the voices of Minnesotans from across the state.

As always, please do not hesitate to contact me. I want to hear your thoughts and your priorities for this legislative session! Feel free to email me at sen.gene.dornink@senate.mn or give me a call at 651-296-5240.