The 90th Legislature will return to the Capitol in St. Paul on Tuesday, Feb. 20, for the second year of the 2017-18 biennium. We will be looking to build upon the major accomplishments made in 2017, particularly as it pertains to two of the House majority’s top priorities: providing major tax relief and a historic investment in roads and bridges.
The tax relief enacted last year is the largest in nearly two decades. It adds up to $650 million in reductions this biennium and $790 million in 2020-2021. One of the most important provisions means nearly 284,000 senior citizen tax returns (single and married filing jointly) are expected to receive tax reductions. Approximately 72,000 of those are no longer paying state income tax on their social security benefits.
The Legislature will face another round of decisions related to taxes this year, primarily related to recent changes enacted into law at the federal level. We will be looking to bring Minnesota into conformity with new federal provisions while also protecting our state’s taxpayers. This will involve intense scrutiny and analysis and I look forward to putting together a plan that is good for Minnesota taxpayers.
As for transportation, we made the largest investment in roads and bridges in state history without a gas tax increase, partly by directing existing taxes on purchases of auto parts, etc., to roads and bridges. The new funding over the biennium includes:
Those of us who live in the western Twin Cities metro area understand just how badly Highway 12 needs major improvements to increase safety and smooth traffic flow. The funding we provided for roads and bridges will be a significant help. Last year, after years of effort and with the help of concerned citizens from our district, we succeeded in obtaining funding for Highway 12 improvements. I am pleased that the improvements to CSAH 90 & 92 interchanges have been now added to the Hennepin County Capital Improvement Plan and that design, engineering and other necessary steps are progressing forward in order to implement these improvements. A big THANK YOU to everyone who helped make funding this effort successful.
Even-numbered years are traditionally when the state does its most significant bonding bills to pay for construction projects throughout the state. If/when such a bill is assembled this year, the Capital Investment Committee chairman has expressed priority will be placed on projects related to infrastructure and transportation needs.
As always, there will be steep competition for bonding dollars and there is never any shortage of requests which may very well exceed an actual bonding bill’s dollar amount by a 4-to-1 ratio. Gov. Mark Dayton is proposing a $1.5 billion bonding bill, an amount which is $600 million more than state finance officials have accounted for in economic forecasts. It is difficult to foresee how a bill that large would gain requisite support for passage.
Another issue sure to make headlines this session pertains to the botched rollout by Governor Dayton’s Administrative Branch of our state’s new Minnesota Licensing and Registration System related to vehicle licensing named MNLARS.
We need to fix the MNLARS mess that is causing frustration and headaches for people renewing their tabs and getting their vehicle registrations. MNLARS is so bad that it is making the MNSure rollout look like a success. It is unfortunate that again, bureaucratic mismanagement is causing real consequences for deputy registrars and citizens all across the state. Minnesota taxpayers have paid nearly $100 million over 10 years for a system that does not function and now the state is asking for another $43 million. This bungled roll-out is already costing millions of dollars to county governments and an unknown economic cost to taxpayer customers who have suffered unnecessary delays and fines for expired tabs. People deserve a system that works and House members are working to fix this problem, while also protecting taxpayers from paying more to cover our government’s mistakes.
NEW COMMITTEE ASSIGNMENT
I am pleased to announce that I have been appointed an additional committee assignment to The Committee on Ways and Means. It is an honor to have been assigned to this important committee and my current appointment as Vice-Chair of the Property Tax Committee and member of the Full Tax Committee compliment this important finance function that The Committee on Ways and Means serves.
The February forecast prepared by the Office of Budget and Management will be released soon and it will provide an important update to the legislature on the budget revenues and expenditures year to date and will help frame any debate about both policy and spending for this session. Given that the economy is expanding at a rate greater than previously predicted, Minnesota’s revenues since the beginning of the new fiscal year are exceeding forecasts. Therefore, it appears that Minnesotans are continuing to be overtaxed despite last session’s passage of the largest tax relief bill in the past 20 years.
Please feel free to contact me on any legislative issue that you would like to discuss for this coming session by contacting my office at 651-296-9188 or by emailing me at email@example.com.