Local legislators report increases in funding for vairous programs
District 5B Rep. Tom Anzelc, DFL-Balsam Township, said the recent legislative session ended with lots of compromise, though Anzelc was happy with some of the decisions made.
“I thought it was a major correction ending 10 years of eliminating services, cutting services. It was significant in that we focused on public education and property tax relief. We accomplished that,” Anzelc said. “Homeowners will see reducing property taxes, and schools and community colleges and the state university system will see more money for public schools.”
Anzelc said tuition rates for higher education have been frozen for two years.
“All of this, of course, comes with a price, and the price will be paid primarily by high income Minnesotans who have done very, very, very well in shielding their income over the last 10 years; but, unfortunately, cigarette smokers and tobacco consumers will pay a price as well,” Anzelc said.
Anzelc did not support increasing taxes on tobacco products.
“Closer to home, for resorts in Cass County and Itasca County, and resorts throughout the resort country, there are two provisions that I worked very hard on that will provide some relief,” Anzelc said.
Anzelc said he fought to keep the school year from starting before Labor Day and was a member of the Tax Conference Committee to create a provision allowing resorts in northeastern Minnesota to delay making their first half property tax payments to counties until June 15.
Anzelc also said positive changes included a per pupil funding increase to public schools, tax increases and an increase in equity for Minnesota’s Rural districts.
“Because of declining population, when the census is taken every 10 years, in northeastern Minnesota, northern Minnesota, central and northern Minnesota, we’re losing clout at the Legislature, but we held our own and I was happy to be a part of it,” Anzelc said.
Anzelc did say, however, that the last two weeks of the session were increasingly stressful, as well as disorganized.
District 5 state Sen. Tom Saxhaug, DFL-Grand Rapids, also reported success with a number of provisions to the Omnibus Jobs and Economic Development bill. In a news release, Saxhaug’s office reported that the bill included funding for projects at the Grand Rapids YMCA, Greenway Ice Arena and a shared fire hall for Coleraine, Bovey, Caconite, Marble, Calumet, and Greenway fire departments.
“We are creating economic development in many different communities throughout northern Minnesota,” Saxhaug said. “These are investments that will help keep our neighborhoods healthy and safe.”
Saxhaug said he also fought to increase funding for Explore Minnesota. The legislation in question would approximately double the funding for “promotional and tourism advocacy organization statewide.”
District 9 Sen. Paul Gazelka, R-Cass County, said that to him the session was mostly lowlights.
“It’s my third term as a legislator and I think it was the largest tax increase in Minnesota history,” Gazelka said, “which never bodes well for the long-term economic health of the state.”
It wasn’t just taxes that Gazelka was displeased with, though. Gazelka was also unhappy that gay marriage was passed, he said, “though when polled the people of Minnesota did not want that.”
He said a major disappointment was that daycare unionization was passed, even though, he said, 86 percent of daycare providers when polled did not want to join a union.
“To me it was a payoff to union folks because they’ll raise $3 million in dues and that all goes to one party,” Gazelka said.
Gazelka said he was pleased with the limited bonding bill that was passed for state infrastructure. Some of that will go to the state Capitol, which he said is literally falling apart.
The Legislature also provided money to fund the Minneapolis veterans’ home that was waiting for state dollars, he said.
“That was a bipartisan vote that I was glad we did,” he said.
Gazelka said there was another disappointment in the Legislature: the repeal of the sunset commission.
He said the sunset commission, which he helped put together, looked over all government agencies in a 12-year rotation to make them prove why they’re in existence.
“To me it’s like we’re spending a lot of money but not going line-by-line through the budget, and the very commission that would do that was repealed,” he said.
Gazelka said the session had “some serious negatives that will impact us all.”
(Staff Writer Kate Perkins contributed to this story.)