Capitol Comments: Tax relief, public safety top priorities during 2022 session

Published 8:45 pm Friday, February 4, 2022

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Capitol Comments by Peggy Bennett

On Jan. 31, the Minnesota House of Representatives began the 2022 legislative session in St. Paul. As it stands today, Minnesota has a record budget surplus — the largest in state history. Sadly, our state also has had a record violent crime surge this past year. As such, tax relief and public safety will be among the top legislative priorities this year.

Peggy Bennett

With an almost $8 billion surplus, it is glaringly obvious that Minnesota taxpayers have greatly overpaid the state. I believe this overpayment should go back to Minnesota taxpayers through tax relief and through smart funding of local infrastructure such sewer and water for small towns.   

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One of our first tax relief moves should be to remove income tax on Social Security. Minnesota is one of the few states remaining that continues to tax Social Security benefits. It has been one of my goals since entering office to see the Social Security tax permanently disappear. A few years ago we were able to eliminate this tax for thousands of recipients. With a record surplus, now is the time to eliminate it for all Minnesotans.  

We also need to end the unnecessary unemployment tax hike on Minnesota employers. Our government promised Minnesota businesses that they would not be penalized for being forced to lay off workers due to Gov. Walz’s assault on our small businesses. Our state needs to uphold that promise. Government gave us its word and it needs to abide by what it says. 

Many local communities will be hit hard by new MPCA phosphate regulations that will double the cost of water treatment plants across our state. In Albert Lea, what should be a $30 million water treatment plant project will now cost $60 million because of these mandates. 

Albert Lea residents will see their water bills triple or quadruple — unaffordable increases for both home and business — if the state doesn’t step up and chip in to pay for these mandates. These unsustainable increases will be on top of the already stressed family and business budgets due to high inflation driving up the prices of everything from gas to food to everyday supplies like toilet paper. Families are already scratching the bottom of their budget barrels and now we’re going to quadruple their water bills? 

Funding these water treatment plants would be a smart way to use the budget surplus to bring some financial relief to local communities. This is an unfunded mandate. If the state mandates something, then the state should pay for it. 

Public safety is also a huge issue for our state. I absolutely support our police officers — not defunding the police.   

No one should have to fear being mugged, carjacked or worse when walking through their neighborhood or driving through a Twin Cities community. We need to fund law enforcement well and we need to stop repeat criminals from getting shorter sentences — or no sentences — and then getting back on the streets to continue their crime and destruction.  

Some Minnesota cities have drastically cut their police budgets, demonized their police officers and are now experiencing enormous law enforcement personnel deficits. Those cities that defunded their police departments now seem to expect the state come in and give them extra funds to replenish their shortages.   

I am working on a bill that would require any city that receives state dollars for crime prevention to, at minimum, refund their police to the same rate — plus inflation — that it had in 2018 before receiving additional dollars. It’s not fair to the cities that have continued to maintain their police funding to reward bad behavior like this.  

This session is also a bonding year. I support bonding for critical infrastructure like roads and bridges, water quality and the upkeep of state-owned property. Albert Lea has important water quality (dredging) and water treatment infrastructure projects that I will advocate for this year. 

Some personal legislation I am working on this session include a bill that would empower parents by giving them greater input in school curriculum, and a bill to help the many students in our inner cities who are stuck in underachieving schools. I will again attempt to get my omnibus bill reform legislation passed. No more giant bills containing hundreds of pages containing huge amounts of legislation. This is how garbage laws get passed! 

There are other important issues that I’m working on that I was not able to cover in this column. I will look forward to sharing them with you as session proceeds. Along the way, I invite you to share any legislative questions or comments you may have. I can be reached at 651-296-8216 or by email at  

 Peggy Bennett, R-Albert Lea, is the District 27A representative.