Lawmaker’s view: ‘Historic investment’ means tax jump for many Minnesotans – Duluth News Tribune

In this final month of the year, I’d like to highlight two words being thrown around by some talking about the Democrats’ 2023 omnibus bills: “historic investment.” Many are confused as they see less money available after paying gas, mortgage/rent, child care, groceries, after school sports and other activities, fuel to heat their homes and increased electric bills.

Many wonder why they have to work two jobs to make ends meet. Many are wondering why Democrats in the Minnesota House and Senate have increased taxes that further strain the budgets of individuals and families, including an increased gas tax, increased vehicle taxes and a $1,730 child tax credit per child if your income is below $29,000 (single) or $34,000 (dual income). There is a tax credit for those receiving Medicaid, but no tax credits for middle-income families. I voted for middle-class child tax cuts in the 2023 legislative session, and Democrats voted no. I’m excited to see them embrace this in 2024.

Now Democrats want to introduce an unlimited child tax credit based on income level. That’s the very bill Republicans proposed — and DFLers voted against. What changed?

After attending focus groups in recent months, it seems to me that many working families are frustrated by long waiting lists for infant and toddler day care. And few are talking about the closing of 1,000 family daycare centers in Minnesota.

As a state representative, I visited several of these closed facilities and asked why. For many, the regulations are too cumbersome.

I also visited several active children’s centers and learned a lot. Many employees are asking for salary deferrals because, if they don’t, they lose their health care, housing, food and childcare benefits. If they take the money, they risk losing any benefits they receive from Medicaid. Their other choice is to accept a pay raise and work fewer hours to make sure their income stays below the state-allowed amount. Does that make sense?

I’m on the children and families committee and an expert testified last month that 1,300 centers and family child care facilities were surveyed and they were concerned about their continued financial performance. That’s because during the 2023 session, Democrats passed a massive expansion of preschool. The problem, the expert said, is that daycares are losing money looking after babies because they have high mandatory staffing ratios and strict teacher qualifications and do very little with young children. Child care facilities often do not break even or make even a modest profit until children reach pre-K age. Therefore, if pre-K children leave homes or child care centers, the impact on the centers and family care facilities for children further contributes to the decline of licensed establishments.

We see so many unintended consequences because policies are enacted by DFLers without adequately asking providers for their input.

As the holidays approach, the extra cash would be a blessing for most. Many wonder why the $2,000 government surplus refund promised by politicians ends up being only $280 – if you even qualify based on income.

It was a year of “historic spending” — but no historic refunds and no historic cuts to our growing state government. In fact, the state government increased its own departments and the number of employees. This growth in spending is government growth, which is different from growth in the commercial tax base. The commercial tax base and business growth allow tax revenue to fund government programs such as education, roads and bridges, city and county operations, medical care, and more.

If the growth of government outpaces the growth of the commercial tax base, the tax burden is only further shifted to individuals and families to fund all the legislation passed.

Minnesotans are experiencing more costs everywhere they turn, and now they’re facing skyrocketing taxes and fees. The bottom line is that everyone has less money and I agree that this is truly “historic”. Just as families and individuals need a budget to stay within their means, so does the government. It’s easy to spend other people’s money with a historic $20 billion surplus, but I would argue that people deserve to see tax cuts, refunds, and more. They did not deserve to see more programs piled up before the core responsibilities of government were taken care of.

With $20 billion spent and another $10 billion raised in the last session, it was like a money tree that took its leaves across the state.

When it sounds too good to be true, it is. Minnesotans are nice; however, they are not naive. Minnesotans know money doesn’t grow on trees.

I will continue to work for common sense initiatives, just like everyone else does every day in our communities. Our best days are ahead. We must listen, learn and continue to lead.

Rep. Natalie Zeleznikar, R-Fredenberg Township, represents Minnesota District 3B. This is what she wrote for the News Tribune.

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