Rep. Cal Bahr Statement on HF 4531the COVID 19, Economic Stimulus bill

Yesterday as I was driving an 18-wheeler through the mountains to get back to Minnesota, I wondered if we would have a work product that I could support.  The circumstances seemed dire, and many Minnesotans need relief after the Governor effectively took away their jobs and the means to feed their families to “flatten the curve” of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Unfortunately, that was not the case. We had mere moments to read a bill that was arrived at by phone conferences not open to the public, nor any member of the media.  It was another cut and paste omnibus bill with high priority items sandwiched between items that seemed a lot less critical or at least not particularly worthy of such a high priority bill.

I will continue to oppose omnibus bills on principle. This bill, while shorter, had even less transparency than usual in that no part of it went through a committee process or even had a public hearing.

I was particularly struck by how we are handing over money to individuals, but money going to most businesses will be a loan. How will businesses with no revenue for the foreseeable future pay back loans?  How will businesses rebuild and pay back those loans?  A loan is not a lifeline but a weight around the neck of a struggling business.

Also striking was the section on daycare.  We just spent the last session hearing about fraud in our daycare subsidy programs.  Now the government is going to be picking the winners and losers in our daycare industry.  Corporate daycare is a big winner in this bill, with a special carve-out for large daycare centers.

Tribal governments get grant money, not for their COVID-19 related needs since the Federal Government will be responsible for that. The $11 Million is bail out the tribal casinos, or so we were told on the floor today by Majority Leader Winkler.

One good part of the bill is how many licensing requirements in different agencies are being waived or delayed.  If the world doesn’t end without these in place, maybe we should look at making some of these go away permanently.

It was remarkable to me that so many of the sections had different end dates -- from 60 days to mid-2021. This is a temporary crisis, and yet we have changes in the law that will last well into next year without knowing where we will be at that point.

This bill has help for those who have lost their jobs, but that guarantee is a blank check that we expect to pay from the Unemployment Insurance Fund.  There was a positive balance in that fund when this started, but at the rate that people are applying for unemployment, that won’t last. The Federal Government, which can print money, will contribute, but in the end, business payroll taxes will go up. This bill makes it so that individual businesses are not punished for the shutdown by having their experience rates and their payroll taxes go up, but that doesn’t mean that they won’t go up for everybody.

In general, the last few weeks have demonstrated how much power the government holds over the lives of the citizenry. By having to get a permission slip from the government to work at all, not just trade-specific permits, the government can stop anybody’s activities at any time for any reason. This is not a free market, and yet we hear repeatedly that the free market system is failing. How would we know? We haven’t employed the free market system for decades, and here now is proof.

When we return to normal, I would encourage each of us to evaluate what power we want the government to have, and what kind of choices we want to be able to make in a crisis for ourselves and our families, not the government.