Marquart and Eken deliver mixed-news legislative recap to Detroit Lakes City Council
Rep. Paul Marquart, DFL-Dilworth, and Sen. Kent Eken, DFL-Audubon, delivered a legislative recap full of accomplishments and missed opportunities to the Detroit Lakes City Council during their special meeting on June 21. Both outgoing lawmakers were also awarded Certificates of Appreciation from the council for their more than two decades of representative service to area residents.
DETROIT LAKES — Both outgoing Minnesota lawmakers gave the Detroit Lakes City Council good news and bad news during their legislative recap on June 21.
Both Rep. Paul Marquart, DFL-Dilworth, and Sen. Kent Eken, a DFLer who now lives in Audubon, praised this year's legislative accomplishments — including broadband expansion, drought relief and front-line worker pay — but also spoke about large missed opportunities by not passing a bonding bill, tax bill, or $9.25 billion surplus agreement.
"It was kind of a disappointing end to the session because we didn't get the surplus money supplemental budget passed, and while there were some things passed, the bulk of it is still on the table," said Eken. "I'm hoping for a special session, so that we can actually get that money back to the people of Minnesota. There's different ways to do it."
Eken said some of the options for spending the surplus could be: tax cuts; rebate checks advocated by the governor's office; more investment in nursing homes and other long-term care facilities; or a compromised combination of those choices.
"Right now is the time that people really need it," he said.
Eken also said: "There seem to be some people who would like to push (the surplus agreement) off into the next year because they think that maybe they'll have complete control of all three branches of government after the next election, which means they don't have to compromise with the other side. And, I think that's very unfortunate because I think that compromise is a good thing."
Marquart echoed his state senate colleague in hoping the governor calls a special session to finish some of the items left undone by the legislature.
"If we don't get one, it's a huge, huge loss of opportunity, just big time, on so many fronts," said Marquart.
Marquart also said, in the next biennium, the state is forecast to receive an additional $6 billion in "ongoing structural balance." The total of both surplus numbers, if left unspent or allocated, would come to $15.3 billion after the next three years, he added.
He also lamented that, after replenishing the states unemployment insurance fund with some surplus dollars, Gov. Tim Walz, Senate Majority Leader Jeremy Miller, R-Winona, and Minnesota House Speaker Melissa Hortman, DFL-Brooklyn Park, had an agreement in place for the remaining surplus.
Marquart said the agreement would've featured $4 billion in tax cuts, $4 billion in spending on education, health and human services, and public safety, and the remaining $4 billion on the "bottom-line" in case the economy experiences a downturn.
However, one of Marquart's biggest regrets from the session is not passing a tax bill, even though he, chair of the House Tax committee, and Sen. Carla Nelson, R-Rochester, chair of the Senate Tax committee, signed the final spreadsheet for the tax bill indicating their approval of the agreement.
"We actually thought, and we had a press conference on that, that, if people saw what the tax cut was, it would hurry them along to get the rest of it done, but that didn't occur," said Marquart. "The income tax cuts in there were about $1.1 billion per year, and Minnesota is known as a high-tax, high-service state, but that tax bill would have cut our income taxes by 7%, I mean, that's significant."
The bill would also have eliminated state taxes on Social Security benefits and increased funding for local government aid. Detroit Lakes has seen decreasing local government aid from the legislature over the last decade due to the current formula's criteria. Detroit Lakes' 2022 tax levy actually accounted for projected LGA losses in 2023.
"We could've really fixed the roof, so to speak, for a rainy day with some of these dollars ... so if we don't come back this year, it's a huge missed opportunity, besides not doing any of the bonding bill, which includes Washington Ballpark," said Marquart.
Both lawmakers previously announced they won't be seeking reelection this November and thanked the council members, the local organizations and individuals for allowing them to represent their interests. Adding that they felt honored to watch communities like Detroit Lakes grow as it has over the last 20 years.
" Whenever, Kelcey (Klemm) and I, and other members go down for a legislative action in February, we always came down and we had two familiar faces, and that's Sen. Eken and Rep. Marquart," said Ron Zeman, alderman first ward. "Both of these folks listened to us and they were very helpful in meeting the needs for Detroit Lakes."
Following the meeting, both outgoing lawmakers were presented Certificates of Appreciation from the city of Detroit Lakes for more than two decades of representative service for area residents.