The 90th Minnesota Legislature convened the Capitol in St. Paul today to begin the 2018 session, making this a good time for a refresher on what happened in 2017 and a look at what’s ahead this year.
Tax relief and funding for roads and bridges are top priorities of mine and we accomplished key achievements in each category during the 2017 session. The tax bill provided the largest package of relief in almost 20 years, with $650 million in tax reductions over the next two years and $790 million in 2020-2021.
Especially pleasing is that 280,000 senior citizen tax returns (single and married filing jointly) are expected to show state tax reductions. An estimated 72,000 will no longer pay state income tax on their Social Security benefits. Families with child care expenses, people with student loans, farmers and Minnesota’s small-business owners and beyond all received tax relief as well from what was a tremendous tax bill.
Transportation also is a very important issue – especially to those of us who travel Highway 12 and see how badly our roads need to be improved. Fortunately, we passed legislation providing the largest investment in roads and bridges in state history without raising the gas tax or increasing license tab fees. It translates to billions of dollars over the next decade, with an infusion of more than $300 million for roads over two years alone.
The K-12 education budget we set provides more than $1.3 billion in increased funding. That is 2 percent more to the per-pupil formula each of the next two years, matching what our school districts requested. Delano is receiving approximately $1 million in new funding this two-year cycle, while Dassel-Cokato ($940,268) and Howard Lake-Waverly-Winsted ($536,482) are other examples of funding increases for area schools.
On a final note from 2017, Republican-led reforms helped reverse the four straight years of double-digit premium increases and helped to expand health care choices to Minnesota families – particularly in rural areas. We also created a new co-op health insurance options to reduce costs and improve health care choices for people who work in the agriculture industry.
This year, a capital investment bill for construction projects around the state is likely to be a focus of discussion. The governor is proposing a $1.5 billion bonding package, an amount that is far too large in my opinion. In fact, that proposal is $600 million more in bonding than what state economists have factored into their projections. It is important that we support our infrastructure, especially roads and bridges, but we also must respect the taxpayers’ dollar by remaining mindful of the debt service payments that later come with borrowing.
Legislators also will be working this session to make improvements on the failing Minnesota Licensing and Registration system for renewing their tabs and getting their vehicle registrations. Taxpayers have paid nearly $100 million over 10 years for this new system and now the state asking for another $43 million. This mismanagement and lack of accountability from the governor and his administration is causing real problems for people all over the state. It must come to an end so Minnesotans have access to the working system they deserve.
A new state economic forecast will be issued later this month, which could impact what takes place this session. Preliminary reports indicate our strong economy and other factors could be producing a revenue surplus, so stay tuned.
This is only a sampling of the issues as the new session begins. Your input always is appreciated and the best way to reach me during the session is by emailing email@example.com.
It is an honor to continue representing the people of our area and I look forward to doing more good work on your behalf this session.