Gov. Mark Dayton delivers his State of the State Address in the House of Representatives Chamber at the Capitol in St. Paul Monday evening.
Before we get into legislative issues, please join me in praying for Gov. Mark Dayton as he faces health issues. Let's wish him the best and put our faith in the Lord to give him strength.
The top issues-related news from the Capitol this week is that we provided final passage for health insurance relief and reform and the governor enacted it.
The package, which received overwhelming approval, 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.
I am pleased we were able to deliver relief to people who need it most, but the reform measures the House successfully advocated to include will be just as beneficial by increasing accessibility, ensuring continuity of coverage and containing costs for the long haul. There is more work to do to improve health insurance delivery in our state, but this is a big first step so early in the session.
The governor on Tuesday issued his budget proposal for the 2018-19 biennium. He is looking for a $45.8 billion budget, roughly a 10-percent increase from the current biennium. 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 proposes 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. The governor also proposes raising the fee for deer hunting and fishing licenses.
The House is currently working on its own budget plan and expect a greater focus on tax relief in our proposal. Stay tuned for more details.
Another bill that has been in the news early this session is Real ID. This bill is in response to the federal government implementing stricter ID standards for multiple purposes, including accessing federal buildings and boarding domestic flights.
Minnesota’s current standard driver’s license ID does not comply with the new federal standards. Our state is one of only a few states remaining out of compliance and Homeland Security has set a deadline of Jan. 22, 2018 for us to meet the new standards.
The House proposes a two-tier plan so people could decide which path to take. Those who want a Real ID would be able to get one. Those who do not want a Real ID could abstain and continue using the same IDs we have today. Nobody is forced into anything.
It also is noteworthy that our Real ID will not include the RFID chips that are subject to data breaches. The information contained on our card’s magnetic strip would be limited to the print found elsewhere on the card.
I am not pleased the federal government is infringing on states in this way, but the plan we are offering is a practical one that makes the best out of the hand we have been dealt.
Have a good weekend and, as always, your feedback on the issues is welcome.