Tuesday marked the start of the 2012 Legislative Session. I'm sure many citizens felt as I did that the news of $876 million in budgetary surplus provided welcome relief compared to the $5.1 billion deficit the state faced last year!
Reforms Are Game-Changers
The Legislature is set to vote on a package of government reform ideas called Reform 2.0 that will truly reshape how government in Minnesota does business. This bicameral effort is the result of meetings from August-November with hundreds of business owners, local government leaders and interested citizens. I am pleased that the Reform 2.0 initiative includes many reforms that will remove barriers to job growth including phasing out and eliminating the business property tax and freezing the general tax inflator. In education you’ll see initiatives to raise student achievement such as removing seniority in our schools, putting parents in the driver's seat for their child's education, and grading schools on an A-F system. You'll see reforms in health care such as allowing the elderly to convert life insurance death benefits into long-term care insurance and providing a tax deduction for individual health insurance premiums. You'll see reforms which reverse our reputation as a welfare magnet including matching welfare standards with our neighboring states, reducing the time limit for benefits from 60 to 36 months and instituting a permanent disqualification for drug offenders. You'll see major initiatives to reduce the cost of government. For details, go to www.reform2.mn.
We're seeing the Vikings options being narrowed concerning location and funding of a new Vikings stadium - and just when a vote might occur. Even though I don't want to see the Vikings leave, I cannot ask the taxpayers of Minnesota for funding to accommodate their current plan. If you're concerned about a sales tax being imposed on you in Ramsey County, you can weigh in by signing a petition opposing such a move at http://www.nostadiumtax.info/. Thanks to the efforts of Shoreview council-members Blake Huffman and Ady Wickstrom and volunteers such as Ron Halverson.
My Goals for 2012
My focus at the legislature remains driving down the cost of local government. Those of us in Anoka County and Lino Lakes were spared from rising property taxes due to leaders who stood up for taxpayers and lived within their means. Thanks to Rhonda Sivarajah (Anoka County board chair) and Jeff Reinert (Lino Lakes mayor) for their effective representation. I will be sponsoring legislation that will freeze property taxes, give tools to citizens to reverse local government decisions, make city and county budgets more transparent, and remove mandates allowing local elected officials more control of their spending.
In case you didn't catch the big news in the recycling industry…two heavyweight recyclers, Allied Waste Services and Waste Management, are now accepting virtually all plastic products in their curbside pick-ups. This adds plastics such as margarine tubs, shopping bags, dry cleaning bags, takeout food containers, plastic foam and many other common plastic products to what you can recycle. If you're familiar with the codes, this adds everything coded 3 - 7 shown in the recycling symbol to the accepted items. It should be noted, this milestone in the recycling industry came about from market demand rather than the imposition of additional government recycling mandates.