Hello from St. Paul, where this week the House provided final approval of a key package of health insurance relief and reform and the governor signed it into law.
Before we get to that, I hope you will join me in sending best wishes to the governor as he faces health issues. It has been a difficult time for him and let’s hope overcomes these challenges.
The governor did this week issue his budget proposal for the 2018-19 biennium. The governor is proposing a $45.8 billion budget, roughly a 10-percent increase from the current cycle. Despite Minnesota’s $1.4 billion surplus, the governor is proposing just $88 million in tax cuts for 2018-19 and $244 million in 2020-21.
In addition, the governor proposing a $1.4 billion tax increase on trips to the doctor by extending the provider tax, and $1.5 billion in new taxes and fees in the next biennium alone by increasing the gas tax, tab fees, the Metro area sales tax, new license/title surcharges, and more.
Look for the House to make tax relief a higher priority as our plan takes shape.
On a final budget note, as chairman of the House committee on higher education, I was pleased with the governor’s budget proposal on that subject.
As for the health insurance relief/reform, the package which passed provides a 25-percent premium reduction to Minnesotans who do not qualify for MNsure tax credits on the individual market. It also includes key Republican-led reforms to preserve care for those receiving life-saving treatments and increase competition and consumer choice moving forward.
Soaring premium rates received much publicity and it was important we address that problem, but other issues such as limited accessibility to care also needed to be fixed. There is more work to do, but the package we passed makes headway with a good number of reforms that will help improve health care for the long haul, independent of uncertainty that exists on this issue at the federal level.
In other news, a couple of bills I have authored with local interest are making their way through the House.
One bill provides allows the half-cent sales tax Fergus Falls residents approved in a referendum last November for a local library project. A number of local people have worked for many years to make this project happen and, upon passage of my bill, the revenue source will take effect next January.
The other bill is a re-appropriation of $2 million in bonding funding for redevelopment of the regional treatment center in Fergus. A previous appropriation of the same amount expired and must be reapproved.
Finally, those who subscribe to email updates from me and other House members are being asked to confirm their subscription. This is due to a change in how the public signs up to our email notification system. It affects all of us in the House, regardless of party affiliation and/or tenure.