2023 Policy Priorities

The 2023 legislative session starts today, January 3, 2023. Greater Mankato Growth will be working vigorously to ensure the voice of our members is heard loud and clear in St. Paul. We will also keep members up to date on key issues and provide information you will need to be an advocate for your business. Be on the lookout for additional blog posts in the coming weeks and months as the session gets underway.

Greater Mankato Growth’s Board of Directors have approved a set of policy priorities. These priorities are the result of a lengthy process that included several opportunities for input: a membership survey, the Advocacy Committee, and hundreds of conversations with members. The priorities are comprised of many of the most important issues that affect our members.

Greater Mankato Growth will focus our advocacy efforts in these areas:

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2022 Local Election Recap

Elections don’t only impact capitol cities, they also impact every local board, council, and commission in our communities. This year was no different. There will be changes in leadership in a number of important local offices, including a new Mayor of North Mankato. These local leaders touch our lives every day as they manage critical infrastructure, teach our kids, and keep our communities safe.

Below is a breakdown of the results of local races.

City of North Mankato

Mayor

Scott Carlson – 50.65% (3,065)

Ben Kaus – 37.21% (2,245)

Kenneth J. DeWitte – 7.87% (475)

Warren Lee Anderson – 3.83% (231)

Mayor-Elect Scott Carlson replaces Mayor Mark Dehen who has served since 2011.

City of Mankato

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2022 Legislature Election Recap

The results of the election in Minnesota were not what was widely expected. The conventional wisdom suggested Republicans would have a big night. In a midterm election with a lackluster Presidential approval rating, rising inflation, and prolonged economic uncertainty, it would seem that history would once again repeat itself. That didn’t happen. Instead, Democrats (DFL) carried voters focused on issues such as reproductive rights, election integrity/democracy, and public safety, especially in and around the Twin Cities suburbs. The graphic below shows this exactly (Graphic 1).

Polls showed a very tight race for Governor and Republican candidates for other statewide offices leading slightly. In the end, Governor Walz won by more than eight points, enough to “carry” the other statewide offices to victory for a clean Democratic sweep of all constitutional offices – Governor/Lieutenant Governor, Attorney General, Secretary of State, and State Auditor.

Graphic 1: DFL candidates continue to increase their share of the suburbs while also driving up votes in Hennepin County that has outpaced Republican gains in greater Minnesota.

But that’s not all.

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2022 Legislative Session Recap: What could have been

The 2022 legislative session could be characterized in one word: disappointing. There was so much opportunity to do good work and help Minnesotans. Very little of that opportunity was seized. This may not be entirely surprising, given Minnesota is one of only two states with divided control of the legislature (Republicans have the majority in the Senate, and the Democrats have the majority in the House). But Minnesota has a tradition of compromise and it is also something that is structurally required by our state’s constitution: the state must pass a balanced budget every two years, bonding bills (borrowing money) requires a super majority of both the House and the Senate, and, of course, all legislation must be signed by the Governor. There have been hiccups along the way, but Minnesotans expect elected officials to work together and get their work done, even if a little late.

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Legislative Update: Mid-Session – April 2022

We are already into the second half of the 2022 legislative session. Unfortunately there has not been a lot accomplished yet, despite the legislature setting a record for the number of bills introduced with more than 4,700 in the Senate and 4,300 in the House. It seems that legislators have a lot ideas, but have taken very little action. We have passed all the committee deadlines and the House and Senate have started to move on their omnibus bills: taxes, transportation, environment, etc. Not surprisingly, the House and Senate omnibus bills are vastly different on both policy and fiscal impact. Much work will have to be done to come together in conference committee or with leadership.

Budget Surplus

The Senate passed the first omnibus tax bill off the Senate floor in bipartisan fashion. Among other things, it permanently reduces the first tier individual income tax rate from 5.3% to 2.8% and eliminates income tax on social security income. The Senate Republicans touted this as the “largest tax cut ever,” totaling $3.38 billion this biennium and $5 billion in the FY 24/25 biennium.

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Legislative Update – March 2022

The legislature is off and running full steam ahead! This the second year of the 2-year (biennial) legislative session. There are several themes that have been consuming the discussion early on: budget surplus, bonding, unemployment insurance trust fund, redistricting, and COVID closures. Here is a brief update on each area.

Budget Surplus

In 2021, the state passed a 2-year budget of $52 billion, a record level of spending. A key part of our budget is revenue, how much the state collects in taxes, fees, federal funds, etc. The state uses a forecasting model to try and make an educated guess of how much money will be collected (and spent) during the biennium. The state then updates their projections throughout the year with periodic “budget forecasts,” which update the revenue and expense projections. In November 2021, the state projected a budget surplus of $7.7 billion. As of Monday February 28th (the “February forecast”), that budget surplus jumped to $9.3 billion. The legislature does not technically need to do anything, they already passed a budget in 2021. However, ideas range from giving it back in the form of rebate checks, reducing taxes, or spending on new or existing programs. Governor Walz has proposed nearly tripling proposed rebate checks (“Walz Checks”) to $500 and $1,000 for qualifying individuals and couples. Senate Republicans have proposed permanently reducing the first tier individual income tax rate from 5.3% to 2.8% and eliminating income tax on social security income. House Speaker Melissa Hortman and DFL leaders have been cautious and suggested putting more in reserves while also providing unspecified support for families who continue to struggle through the pandemic.

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2022 Policy Priorities

The Greater Mankato Growth board of directors recently adopted the 2022 Policy Priorities. A key area of focus at Greater Mankato Growths is “Advocacy of the Marketplace”. As such, GMG adopts a set of policy priorities annually. These priorities represent important issues that we focus on throughout the year. We work with elected officials at all levels of government to ensure that policies are enacted that are pro-business and help our regional economy grow.

These priorities are the result of numerous points of input. We conducted a policy survey in October 2021, hosted the Minnesota Chamber of Commerce in Mankato for a small-group discussion, and our Public Affairs Steering Committee meets monthly with leaders from nearly all industry sectors represented.

In 2022, our policy priorities include the following focus areas:

Economic and Workforce Development

Tax Competitiveness

Strategic Investments

Healthcare

Childcare

Support Partner Organization

To view the full details of our 2022 Policy Priorities, click the image below or visit our Advocacy webpage.

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OSHA Issues Emergency Temporary Standard

This morning the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) filed a hotly-anticipated Emergency Temporary Standard (ETS) related to COVID-19 vaccines, testing, and face coverings in the workplace. This follows an announcement by President Biden on September 9, 2021, directing OSHA to develop a rule to combat the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

Details are posted on the OSHA website, but here are some of the key highlights:

  • ETS is effective immediately, as of 11/5/2021.
  • Employers must comply with all requirements, except testing, within 30 days. Testing compliance within 60 days.
  • ETS applies to employers with 100 or more employees. In Minnesota, along with other states with an OSHA approved State Plan, the ETS applies to public sector workers employed by state and local governments, including educators and school staff.
  • Employers must determine the vaccination status of each employee, obtain proof of vaccination status, and maintain records.
  • Require employees to notify the employer of a positive COVID test or diagnosis. Employers must then remove the employee from the workplace.
  • Employees who are not fully vaccinated must be tested at least weekly if the employee is in the workplace at least one day a week.
  • Employees who are not fully vaccinated must wear a face covering when indoors or in a vehicle with another person for work purposes.
  • ETS does not require employers to pay for testing or face coverings. Employers may assume costs if they so choose.
  • ETS does not apply to 100% remote employees or employees who work exclusively outdoors.
  • Requires employers to provide up to four hours of paid time to receive each vaccination dose, and reasonable time and paid sick leave to recover from side effects experiencing following each dose.

Greater Mankato Growth staff is continuing to monitor this announcement. We will provide additional details and resources as they become available.

2021 (Special) Legislative Session Recap

Minnesota’s 92nd legislative session ended their 2021 regular session on May 17th without a budget. The Governor and Legislative leaders instead released a budget framework with a target of $52 billion for the next biennium. Lawmakers worked for four weeks on final details largely outside of the public eye until they convened a special session on June 14th. All spending bills were passed and signed into law by June 31st.

The need for a special session was largely due to a late infusion of funding from the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) that was signed into law by President Biden on March 11, 2021. Roughly $8.5 billion was allocated in the bill to the State of Minnesota for various programs.

Budget

A final budget of $52 billion was signed into law on June 31, 2021. This biennial budget is an increase of approximately $1.3 billion over the previous budget – much of that one-time funding from ARPA. Included in the bill are direct tax cuts of $644 million to people who lost jobs and employers who kept people working during the pandemic.

Paycheck Protection Program

The final tax bill included full conformity to federal tax law with regards to the Paycheck Protection Program at a cost of roughly $375 million in fiscal year 2022. Businesses and organizations that received PPP loans will not be subject to either federal or state income tax on the amount of the loan received.

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Greater Mankato Growth Sends Letter to Governor Walz

Today, Greater Mankato Growth sent a letter to Governor Tim Walz providing statistics to create awareness of talent challenges facing our region.

The Department of Employment and Economic Development has taken great strides to ensure that individuals receiving unemployment insurance are aware of the job opportunities that exist across the state.

We asked that the State implement measures to supplement the work that is being done surrounding awareness of job availability by creating enforcement measures, while offering flexibility for those still impacted by COVID-19 considerations. You can read the full letter here.

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