At ‘freedom rally’ conservative groups push back on DFL priorities

Published 8:34 am Wednesday, April 5, 2023

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By Dana Ferguson

Conservative Minnesotans rallied at the Capitol Tuesday in opposition to the DFL trifecta at the Capitol and early legislation on abortion, gender-affirming care and gun restrictions that Democrats have put forward.

Clad in “Make America Great Again” hats and hoisting signs that called for tax cuts and parental control, dozens of Minnesotans called for more freedom and less of the policy changes they deemed “madness.”

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Republican leaders at the Capitol and right-leaning groups urged lawmakers to focus on tax relief this legislative session. With a $17.5 billion budget surplus, they said the Legislature should return that money to taxpayers.

“What has been extremely lacking so far, in all of the work being done, is tax reform,” House Minority Leader Lisa Demuth, R-Cold Spring, said. “We are sitting on a $17.5 billion surplus of all of the taxpayer money, there has not been one single dime brought back and given back to Minnesotans.”

DFL leaders and the governor struck budget targets for various areas of state government last month. And they set aside $3 billion for additional tax cuts and credits in the next two years, and $1.3 billion more in the two that follow.

That’s part of a $72 billion budget framework that they composed for the next two years that includes significant new spending for K-12 schools, housing and transportation. DFLers have also proposed new taxes and fees for food and package deliveries, Uber and Lyft rides, employer payrolls and stock purchases.

Much of the budget surplus is one-time, House Speaker Melissa Hortman, DFL-Brooklyn Park, said. And so to fix roads and bridges or run new programs in the long-run, she said additional funds are needed.

“If we want to do better, for example, we want smoother roads, and more ability for bridge and road repair, then we have to think about, where’s the money going to come three years from now when this one-time surplus is in the rearview mirror?” she told MPR News last week.

Republican lawmakers have pressed DFLers to boost the amount earmarked for tax credits and rebate checks. They, along with some Democrats, have also supported full elimination of the state tax on Social Security.

Tax committee chairs are set to release their budget bills next week.

GOP lawmakers and conservative groups also used the rally to oppose the legislation passed and signed into law already this year.

Since taking control of the House, Senate and governor’s office in January, DFLers have enacted proposals that guarantee the right to reproductive health care, allow people in the country without proper authorization to apply for driver’s licenses, and set a 2040 goal for electric utilities to use all carbon-free energy sources, among others.

Other DFL priority issues remain up for consideration when lawmakers return from an Easter Passover break next week. Abortion opponents and gun rights groups told the crowd that that means they have work to do in the last few weeks of the session.

“We’ve defeated almost every single one of those proposals this session, and they are gone,” Minnesota Gun Owners Caucus Vice President Rob Doar said of gun legislation. But he noted that two bills – one that would require universal background checks to buy a firearm and another that would allow police to take a person’s firearms if they’re deemed by a judge to pose a risk to themself or to others – are still moving.

“We need one vote in the Senate to kill these bills, one vote,” Doar said. “I think we could do it. We need all of you to step up and help us out.”

Rallygoer Ginnelle Edgette, a hairdresser from Blaine, said she was concerned about DFL leaders voicing support for only a partial repeal of the state’s Social Security tax. She also said that parents, not school officials, should call the shots on curricula.

“We need to bring faith back to the state of Minnesota,” she said. “Right now it’s moving towards what’s happening in California. And our leadership here in Minnesota is not for Minnesota people. I grew up in Minnesota and I feel like Minnesota has 100 percent changed from the Minnesota I grew up in. And that’s why so many people are leaving.”