Dahms urges more rural voices in political process
NEW ULM – State Sen. Gary Dahms stressed the importance of people getting involved in the political process during a talk to the New Ulm Rotary Club on Tuesday, at the New Ulm Country Club.
Dahms, the Republican state senator from Redwood Falls representing Senate District 16, pointed out that Republicans lost the majority in the Minnesota Senate by 362 votes in 2022. That was the margin that swung one senate district Republicans were expecting to win to the DFL, giving them a one-vote majority in the Senate, to go with control of the Minnesota House of Representatives and the governor’s office. And that gave Democrats control over the state’s $17.5 billion surplus.
“We Republicans were hoping that we could have a considerable amount of that money put back into readjusting taxes and continuous tax relief,” said Dahms. “That did not happen. And so last year that $17.5 billion was spent and another $14 billion on top of that.”
Dahms said about $6 billion of the spending was funded with money left over from previous budgets, but Democracts passed about $9.6 billlion in new taxes and fees.
Going into this session the state has about a $2.1 billlion surpus since July 1.
Dahms recalled that when he first entered the Senate in 2011, the state was saddled with a deficit of $5.1 billion. But since then surpluses have grown to last year’s monumental size.
Dahms said surpluses of $500 million to $1 billion show the state’s spending and taxation are in good balance, but to run deficits of $2 billion to $3 billion year after year indicates the state is taking too much in taxes.
He is hopeful that the coming session will result in some pro-business adjustments to the state’s tax burden.
Dahms is also interested in more spending equity between the rural and metropolitan districts in the state. Dahms said there is not just a DFL vs. Republican division in the state legislature, but a rural vs. metro division as well. Because more and more legislators are representing metro areas, a disparity has developed between metro and rural spending on transportation, heath care and education, Dahms said. It showed in the struggle to get more funding for nursing homes, especially in the rural parts of the state. Republicans had to take a stand on a state bonding bill to force the state to appropriate more money for nursing homes. Nursing home budgets are heavily reliant on Medicaid reimbursements, Dahms said, and Medicaid reimbursement policies provide higher reimbursement rates for metro area facilities.
“If you look at the money that’s collected in rural Minnesota, for gas tax and things like that, we do not get our fair share for transportation. If you look at health care, we do not get our fair share for health care,” said Dahms. “It really shows up in education, when you see what we get per student, versus what the seven-county metro area, … there is a major, major difference there.”
Minnesota’s legislative session begins Feb. 12.