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State Representative JoAnn Ward

231 State Office BuildingState Office Building
100 Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd.
651-296-7807

For more information contact: DJ Danielson 651-296-8879

Posted: 2016-04-05
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Legislative Update

Legislative Update - April 5, 2016


Dear Neighbors,

The Legislative Session is now in its fifth week with seven weeks to adjournment. Many bills are moving through the committees and have started to reach the floor for debate and voting by the House. Following are just three issues we’re working on in the House of Representatives:

Transportation Funding

The 2015 Session, was supposed to be the “Transportation Session” to finally fund an overdue deficit in our transportation needs. That deficit is estimated to be $6 billion over 10 years just to maintain current infrastructure. Unfortunately, there was no agreement on how to fund this essential function of government, which led to no action. We have renewed this effort in 2016, and still, agreement remains elusive.

In addition to the gasoline tax, the motor vehicle sales tax, tab fees, and federal funding, a beneficial source for suburban highway funding is the motor vehicle lease sales tax. Historically, all of these proceeds went to the state general fund, but starting in 2010, 50 percent of the collections over $32 million are allocated to suburban county highways. This is a significant source of funding; in 2016 Washington County is set to receive over $6 million from this.

As discussions over transportation funding continue, there are a variety of different proposals relating to the motor vehicle lease sales tax. One would allocate the first $32 million in the same manner: 50 percent to suburban county highways. There are others that would allow Hennepin and Ramsey counties to share in this funding. These funding streams can be complex, and whichever specifics may be reached in a comprehensive transportation bill, these allocations need to treat all Minnesotans fairly, no matter if they are suburban, urban, or rural.

Student Loan Debt Relief

When tough budget times hit the state of Minnesota in the early 2000s, one of the first things to hit the chopping block was adequate funding of higher education. Disinvestments in our colleges and universities continued through the great recession and with it brought record tuition increases and, unsurprisingly, record student debt. A report released late last year shows Minnesota has the fifth highest average student debt load in the nation. When people carry such high debt loads, they are held back from making important purchases such as homes or automobiles, and don’t have the ability to save for emergencies. This in turn limits economic growth in our state and seriously impacts many families.

Last week, the House Higher Education Committee heard several bills from some of my colleagues containing good ideas how to provide relief form this crushing debt. They include:

· HF 2965: Provides a tax credit for student loan payments to lessen the burden of student loan debt, authored by Rep. Jon Applebaum

· HF 2924: Expands and improves the state’s student loan refinancing pilot program so more Minnesotans can lower their monthly payments the same way they can with a mortgage, authored by Rep. Melissa Hortman

· HF 2546: Expands eligibility of the state’s student loan refinancing program to apply to those facing a financial emergency such as permanent disability or death of a spouse, authored by Rep. Kim Norton

· HF 2576: Informs eligible workers about loan forgiveness opportunities by requiring public employers and non-profits to provide information to their employees about the federal Public Service Loan Forgiveness program, authored by Rep. Erin Murphy.

Absent legislative action, this will be the next economic “bubble” to burst, and it will have catastrophic effect on young people and will send ripples through the rest of the economy.

Drug Disposal

If you have expired or unused medications, Ramsey County and Washington County provide locations to dispose of them safely. Old and unused medicines in the home pose a risk of accidental poisoning, theft and drug abuse. Medicine disposed of in a drain or landfill is harmful to our environment, and proper disposal ensures medicines don’t end up in the wrong hands.

For more information, in Ramsey County visit https://www.ramseycounty.us/residents/recycling-waste/medicine-collection-program. Washington County information is found at: https://www.co.washington.mn.us/DocumentCenter/View/718

Thanks for reading. As always, please feel free to contact me with any questions, feedback, or if I can ever be of assistance to you.

Sincerely,

JoAnn Ward

Minnesota House of Representatives  ·   100 Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd. Saint Paul, MN   55155   ·   Webmaster@house.mn