Several Republican members of the Minnesota House announced a bill Thursday that would repeal the city of St. Paul’s new college savings program.
The bill, which will be introduced when the legislative session kicks off in February, would repeal the $500,000 in state funding that was used to launch the program and strike the program authorization from law.
The controversial program faced additional scrutiny this week after it was reported that Rep. Kaohly Vang Her (DFL-St. Paul), an author of the original bill that provided state funding for the program, is also a policy director for St. Paul Mayor Melvin Carter.
Carter launched the St. Paul College Bound program on New Year’s Day with a visit to newborn babies at a St. Paul hospital. Under the program, every child born in St. Paul in 2020 and 2021 will receive $50 in a college savings account. The program is expected to cost about $1.2 million annually and will be funded in part by annual grants of $250,000 from the state.
“Our bill is designed to balance the scales regarding who receives government funds,” Rep. Tim Miller (R-Prinsburg) said in a Thursday statement. “The half-a-million dollars of Minnesota taxpayer money which went towards this project should never have been allocated. We are going take that money back and end this insidious attempt at social engineering orchestrated by Mayor Melvin Carter and Rep. Kaohly Her.”
Miller was joined by Reps. Steve Drazkowski (R-Mazeppa), Cal Bahr (R-East Bethel), Jeremy Munson (R-Lake Crystal), Shane Mekeland (R-Clear Lake), and Eric Lucero (R-Dayton) in announcing the bill.
The Republican bill would reduce the amount of state aid cities can receive if they create programs similar to St. Paul’s college savings account. In turn, money saved through these reductions in state aid would be returned to families with children through a one-time increase in the dependent income tax exemption.
“Taxpayer dollars should not be used to start private savings accounts,” Drazkowski said Thursday. “The Democrats want to insert government into the delivery room and we want government kept out.”
He said Minneapolis and St. Paul receive $81.6 million and $69.2 million per year in taxpayer funded Local Government Aid (LGA).
“That’s 14.5 percent and 12.4 percent, respectively, of the total LGA budget. Even though both cities represent only 13 percent of Minnesota’s population, they receive almost 27 percent of our total LGA funds. Both cities need to pull their own weight, rather than relying on the rest of Minnesota to fund their tomfoolery,” he continued.
The Republican legislators concluded by calling for a return to single-subject bills at the Minnesota Legislature.
“The St. Paul college savings program was one of the many dreadful initiatives rolled into the 2019 special session omnibus bills,” said Bahr. “This program represents another reason why we need to return to truly single-subject bills. The members of the Minnesota House of Representatives should have been given a chance to debate, consider, and vote on this initiative specifically. Instead, party leaders crammed this awful proposal into an omnibus bill and passed it hoping Minnesotans would not notice. This practice needs to end.”
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