ST.?PAUL - It's back to work this week for Rep. Paul Torkelson (R-Lake Hanska) and Sen. Gary Dahms (R- Redwood Falls). Minnesota's 2014 legislative session begins today.
The big issue for lawmakers will be the bonding bill, which finances government construction projects. Some estimates place the bonding bill at a billion dollars.
Dahms, who was elected as an assistant minority leader by the Senate Republican Caucus on Monday, estimates the surplus at closer to $800 million and hopes the funding will go to roads and infrastructure. The Associated Press recently reported the surplus at $825 million.
Torkelson said he preferred the bonding be used to tackle infrastructure and to create a healthy environment for businesses.
The proposed increase in minimum wage is the other major issue. Torkelson said he favored a moderate increase. However, he feels too high of an increase could lead to job loss because employers might replace workers with technology rather than hire at higher wages.
The bonding and minimum wage increase could be contentious issues for Republicans and Democrats.
The 5 Percent Campaign has backing from both Republicans and Democrats. The 5 percent rate increase would go to home- and community-based services. Torkelson agreed the increase is needed, saying "They have not had an increase in a while." Dahms also supported the 5 Percent Campaign and is willing to use revenue surplus to cover the cost.
One goal of Torkelson and Dahms is to repeal the Business-to-Business and Gift Tax. Dahms said that the reason for the state's surplus is related to an overreach with taxes in 2013. Although the total surplus amount will not be announced until Feb. 28, early estimates place the surplus at a billion dollars. Dahms said he favors returning some of the surplus to schools, airports and other transportation areas, but he also believes the leftover surplus should be kept in a cash reserve.
One of Gov. Mark Dayton's goals of this legislative session is to remove old laws from the books.
Dahms and Torkelson agree it is a necessary task.
Dahms said that it is typical for a revisory bill to be introduced at the end of the session, but more attention is being paid to out-date laws than in the past.
Dahms said a statute involving telegraphs was recently discovered on the law books and had been overlooked for a long time.