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Dear Friends and Neighbors,
The 2016 legislative session began on Tuesday, and it promises to be an action-packed 10 weeks until adjournment in late May. Here is an update on recent actions and notable events.
HIGHLIGHTS IN THIS UPDATE:
Unemployment Benefits and the Trust Fund
Eden Prairie Students
Late last month, the Minnesota Office of Management and Budget (MMB) released the February Economic Forecast which legislators will use as a budgetary guide to pass legislation this session. The good news is that our state has a $900 million surplus, although that is a decline from November's forecast of $1.2 billion. The decline was due in part to a weakened economic outlook nationally and lower consumer spending, according to MMB. After the November forecast was released, nearly $600 million was placed in the state reserves.
It's also important to note that House-led fiscal restraint helped give our state a surplus heading into the 2016 session. If we had spent every penny last year, we would be facing a significant deficit heading into this session.
With our budget surplus, my top priorities are passing a comprehensive transportation bill to fix our roads and bridges and providing middle-class tax relief. Last year, House Republicans passed the Road and Bridge Act and a tax bill—both are awaiting final negotiations with the Senate. Hopefully this year we can get bipartisan agreement on both pieces of legislation and get them signed into law.
If you have suggestions, input or ideas regarding what you would like to see happen this session, please do not hesitate to contact me. Your comments help me do a better job as your Representative!
Relief for Steelworkers and Businesses
On the first day of session, House Republicans brought forward legislation on the House Floor that would provide relief for steelworkers and offer a boost for small businesses so they can reinvest and hire more people in Minnesota.
The first component of the bill extends unemployment benefits for an additional 26 weeks to out-of-work Iron Range steelworkers. The second component of the bill includes measures to right-size the state's overfunded Unemployment Insurance Trust Fund which currently has a $1.6 billion balance. The proposed credit in the legislation would provide $272 million to employers, reducing future obligations to the trust fund when the balance exceeds the fully-funded threshold per federal standards.
This bill has no impact on the General Fund and will help workers hurt by the downturn in the domestic steel industry, as well as businesses both large and small across the state who pay into the Unemployment Insurance Trust Fund.
An effort to move this bill under expedited procedures was blocked by House Democrats on Tuesday, so the measure will be heard and voted on in the Ways and Means Committee on Monday. I will keep you updated on this legislation as it moves through the House.
Eden Prairie Students
I wanted to take a moment to congratulate Eden Prairie students and their families for all of the wonderful academic and athletic accomplishments they have been achieving. From hockey to robotics, swimming to mathematics, they have been making us proud of their skills, hard work and sportsmanship.
At a recent school board meeting I attended, our superintendent read a lengthy list of our students’ most recent recognitions, and next month, I am sure there will be more. What a great testament to the talent and work ethic of our state’s future workforce!
Congratulations to all of our Eagle students who have represented your school and community so well! You've made Eden Prairie very proud!
If I can be of any assistance to you with a state government matter, please feel free to contact me. I always welcome your views, questions and suggestions on issues of interest or concern. I can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or you can call my office at 651-296-7449. I look forward to hearing from you!
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