The Legislature is about to enter the home stretch of the 2021 session. In the coming weeks, we’ll have to complete negotiations on a state budget and a number of other important issues. Here’s a review of where things stand.
PPP and unemployment tax relief
This is one of the most pressing issues of the legislative session. Countless businesses and workers relied on emergency federal assistance to make it through COVID-19. Businesses took forgivable Paycheck Protection Program loans that gave them the flexibility to keep people on payroll and keep their doors open. Folks who were forced onto unemployment because of business closures were eligible for additional pandemic unemployment benefits to make ends meet.
The federal government exempted both from income taxes, but if Minnesota doesn’t do the same these folks could still be looking at shocking tax bills when they file their returns.
It is incredibly urgent. The Senate already passed this bill on a strong bipartisan vote, but the House has yet to take action.
I made a promise during my first campaign to address soaring health insurance prices caused by the failed MNsure rollout. Our solution was a program called reinsurance. It was monumentally successful: It stabilized the market and helped thousands of Minnesotans afford health care coverage. Minnesota now enjoys the lowest premiums in the country. Other states are even using our program as a model.
The Senate recently voted to extend the program. It was an easy choice.
Unfortunately, the House has yet to act. Failure to do so could lead to more premium spikes as we experienced in the initial days of MNsure.
The Minnesota Senate unanimously approved emergency legislation to protect ratepayers from surges in their utility bills related to the February polar vortex, which caused unprecedented spikes in natural gas prices from Texas all through the Midwest.
Estimates predict an impact to ratepayer bills between $250 and $500 for a typical residence for the time of the polar vortex alone. A business that typically spends $12,500 a month on gas could be facing a bill of $125,000 due to the spike.
Families in rural communities, like Goodhue and dozens of others, are suddenly looking at huge spikes on their utility bills because of the February polar vortex. Without these zero-interest loans, the economic impact could be devastating.
The House has not yet passed this bill, either.
On issue after issue, the Senate is getting its job done. But governing requires cooperation. For any of these bills to become law, the House and Gov. Tim Walz will need to come to the table and work with us.