By Rep. Bud Nornes
In the legislative world, this time of year feels a bit like the beginning of a new baseball season, with new rosters in place and optimism abound for a new session at the Capitol.
Republicans not only expanded their House majority status, but now have control of the Senate as well. Within that framework, much of the focus of late has been on establishing personnel roles in each body, with leadership posts and committee chairmanships established.
I am pleased to remain chairman of the House Higher Education Policy and Finance Committee. This will be the fourth overall term I have held that position. As in previous years, students will remain my top priority as we continue working to find balance between meeting demands of changing workforce – and helping close Minnesota’s employment gap – while providing students with opportunities to pursue their chosen careers.
The Legislature’s top responsibility in 2017 will be to set a new two-year state budget. Recent data shows a $1.4 billion state surplus for the upcoming biennium, which starts this July. House Republicans pushed for fiscal restraint – one of lowest spending increases in state history – and it’s paying off.
Still, the surplus is again a sign government is taking too much from Minnesota families and tax relief should be a top priority in 2017. A good start would be to revisit tax relief which Gov. Mark Dayton vetoed earlier this year despite support from nearly 90 percent of the Legislature in passage. The tax reform he failed to approve would have benefited thousands of Minnesotans, including small-business owners, veterans, college graduates, families, farmers and many more – totaling $801 million in tax relief over the next three years alone and more than half a billion dollars in permanent reductions.
MNsure’s skyrocketing premiums and functional failures also should be a focus in 2017. This ill-crafted program sadly is squeezing middle-class Minnesotans to the point of desperation. The solutions to the health care crisis under MNsure must include controlling premium costs, increasing consumer choice, and allowing greater access to doctors and specialists.
Other topics such as transportation and capital investment – aka, bonding – are expected to come to the forefront this session. People in our area continue to emphasize they want transportation dollars directed toward roads and bridges throughout the state instead of spending more on costly light-rail trains that benefit a select few in the Twin Cities area.
Please stay in touch as we take up these and other issues during the 2017 session. Input from the citizens of District 8A is very much appreciated as I continue working on behalf of people in our area.