As I mentioned briefly last week, Republicans in the legislature came to agreement on our budget bills with Governor Dayton, and he signed these bills into law earlier this week. We were able to accomplish many significant conservative reforms this session.
Our tax bill will provide $650 million in tax relief for our middle class, including $117 million in relief for Minnesota’s senior citizens by raising the income threshold for taxable social security income. Nearly 284,000 senior citizen tax returns (single and married filing jointly) would receive tax reductions; 72,000 of those would no longer pay state income tax on their social security benefits. This relief is long overdue for our senior citizens.
We also included $34 million in relief for farmers by reducing the burden farmers and agriculture land owners pay for school bond referendums, which is disproportionate compared to the amount that other families pay. Small businesses will see $95 million in relief by exempting the first $100,000 in property value from the extra tax on businesses and freezing the automatic inflator. Families saving for college using a 529 saving plan will also receive a deduction.
Our transportation bill invests a huge amount into a 10 year plan to repair and build roads and bridges around the state. As I mentioned last week, this is the largest transportation funding package we have ever passed in Minnesota without raising taxes.
In addition we provided $16 million over the next two years for cities with populations under 5,000 through the Small Cities Assistance program established last session. Cities over 5,000 population will continue to receive their funding. $25 million is dedicated to repair the over 97 bridges on MNDOT's priority list.
Also included in our transportation bill is $102 million in trunk highway funding, $48 million for counties, and $15 million for cities repairing their transportation infrastructure.
Last session our Republican majority held strong against Governor Dayton and a DFL majority in the Senate against funding the multi-million dollar boondoggle that is SouthWest Light Rail and refused to allocate state funds to this incredibly wasteful project that never once received a vote by the legislature for approval. This year, we continued our opposition to Governor Dayton and Democrat insistence for operating cost funds. Our transportation bill ensures that state funding will not be used to cover for operating costs of the proposed Southwest Light Rail. This is a huge victory, considering this very issue was used last year by Democrats to prevent passage of our bonding bill.
We followed huge investments in education last session with a historic investment this year. We were able to find funds to increase the per pupil funding formula by 2% in both years of the biennium. In addition, a huge overhaul of the teacher licensure system and reforms for our state teacher retention policy will ensure that our schools hire the best teachers available, and that merit is taken into account when schools go through teacher layoffs.
Earlier this session, we passed significant relief for Minnesotans being impacted by the astronomic rise health insurance premiums caused by MNsure, Minnesota’s version of ObamaCare. In addition, we ensured continuity of care for those receiving life-saving treatments and end-of-life care, and passed measures to encourage competition in the insurance market by allowing for-profit insurance providers to sell insurance in Minnesota, providing Minnesotans with more affordable options for their health insurance.
There are still steps that need to be taken to truly overhaul the situation in our insurance market, but we made great strides this session to mitigate the damage being done.
On Tuesday the Governor took an unprecedented and unconstitutional step to defund the Legislature, attempting to silence both the House and Senate for the next four years. It isn't right to eliminate an entire branch of government just because we have different principles -- Minnesotans like you elected both of us. After such a productive session, his behavior is disappointing.
As a result, the Legislature is seeking outside counsel in an effort to defend your voice and your representation at the Capitol.
I look forward to seeing folks at home in our district and talking to you in person about the reforms we were able to pass this year.