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Legislative News and Views - Rep. Michael Nelson (DFL)

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Thursday, March 19, 2015


First Deadline, “Policy Deadline” Week

This is one of the busiest times at the Capitol because policy committees are assembling their large policy bills, called Omnibus Bills.  Bills have to be heard in policy committees by the end of this week in order to be passed this year – or get a special hearing in the Rules Committee.  Instead of meeting between 8am and 6pm, they often go much later.  The grueling schedule repeats next month when finance committees have their deadlines.  My busiest committee has been the State Government Finance Committee, which heard a lot of bills last week to meet deadlines in the House.  We’re busy this week hearing bills that met deadlines in the Senate.

A return to Partisan State Government Bills?

Starting a decade ago, the DFL was willing work with Governor Pawlenty to de-politicize the “State Government Finance Bill”.  Sure, both sides like to make political points over the day-to-day operations of state government, but we agreed that we shouldn’t risk grinding Minnesota’s government to a halt over our political differences.  I’m very worried the GOP is reversing that bi-partisanship over their differences with Governor Dayton.  The State Government Finance Omnibus will be loaded with bad, partisan policies if what I saw in committee this week is any indication.

90% of Minnesotans getting lower taxes

It was great news to hear last week that the tax reform we passed two years ago will result in lower taxes for 90% of all Minnesotans.  The Minnesota Department of Revenue’s annual Tax Incidence Study shows that those earning less than $140,000 will be paying less in overall taxes than they did in 2012.

The study credits a few reasons for the decrease in overall taxes:

First, wages are growing for Minnesotans and are outpacing any growth in new taxes.  Second, the budget passed by Governor Dayton and the state legislature has helped middle class taxpayers.  While corporations lost loopholes and the top 2% of earners are paying more, we provided $177 million in direct property tax relief for nearly 1 million Minnesotans.  Our budget also cut income taxes for middle class Minnesotans through federal tax conformity, benefitting more than 1 million Minnesotans.

The good news, coupled with our strong economy and a roughly $2 billion surplus, proves that the GOP’s claim that the sky is falling is false.  But we need to keep pursuing policies that expand our economy for hardworking Minnesotans, not just those who have already benefited.

Oil Train Safety in our community

For several years we’ve seen more and more oil trains travel through our state.  In the past six weeks alone, there have been five oil train derailments in North America.  The train that derailed in Illinois traveled right through Minnesota.

Check out this map of Minnesota counties with the most dangerous oil train routes.  You’ll notice our area is on the list.  I’ve joined Rep. Mike Freiberg on H.F 885 to allow more local scrutiny of a proposed railroad switchyard in crystal that would bring even more oil trains to travel through our community.

In 2014 we took steps to improve safety, but last week Governor Dayton and legislators introduced a proposal to increase oil train safety in Minnesota. The plan would:

-reduce the likelihood of catastrophic fires in oil train derailments

-improve public safety on the state’s rail corridors

-provide property tax relief for communities confronting rail safety issues

-continue efforts to improve fire safety preparedness in local communities

This legislation pays for safety improvements across the state by asking railroad companies to pay assessments and property taxes.  Some railroad companies have seen their profits increase by as much as 600%, and it’s reasonable to ask them to pay a fraction of those profits to keep our communities safe.  So far this session Republican Party Leaders have sided with railroad companies.  It’s my hope they will listen to their constituents and join us in addressing what really shouldn’t be a partisan issue.

Governor Proposes Tuition Freeze

Governor Dayton released an updated budget proposal for spending the larger-than-expected surplus.  One key component of his plan is to maintain tuition freezes at Minnesota public universities. $288 million would be allotted for public colleges and universities to maintain an undergraduate tuition freeze for two more years.  The money would keep pace with inflation and be spent on operating costs. Student and teacher groups, as well as officials from the U of M and MNSCU have backed the proposal.  It’s an important step that helps rein in the exploding costs of higher education, and keep college affordable for many young Minnesotans.

As always I remain accessible and want to hear from you.  Feel free to contact me at 651-296-3751, or


Thank you for giving me the honor of serving you and our community,