Dear Friends and Neighbors,
With Minnesota's $900 million surplus, I heard over and over again from folks in our community that they wanted two things: middle-class tax relief and a transportation bill to fix our roads and bridges. Well I am happy to report that the legislature was able to come to an agreement on substantial tax relief this year before the legislature adjourned on Sunday, transportation fell short in the last moments of session when Senate Democrats tried to amend Southwest Light Rail funding onto a bonding bill.
First, I will start with the positive. Minnesotans are going to see more than $800 million in tax relief over the next three years, including more than $500 million in ongoing and permanent tax cuts. House Republicans worked to ensure a number of tax relief provisions were passed this year including a first-in-the nation student loan tax credit, an exemption of veteran retirement pay from state income tax, an expansion of the child care tax credit, tax deductions and credits for families contributing to a 529 Savings Plan and significant property tax relief for businesses. Since taxpayers created our $900 million surplus, it's only fair we return some of that to you, and I am pleased the legislature was able to send tax relief to the governor for signature.
Where we fell short, however, was funding for our roads and bridges. House Republicans thought we had a bipartisan agreement on a transportation and bonding bill with the Senate on the last day of session. The bill had more than $700 million in road and bridge money, including much-needed funding for Highway 95 in our community. While it wasn't the comprehensive 10-year plan we had originally hoped for, it did include one of the largest one-time infusions of cash for our roads and bridges ever and would have been a substantial down payment for long-term transportation investments. The bill passed on a strong bipartisan vote in the House 91-39.
Unfortunately, in the last minutes of session, a handful of Democrat Senators tried to amend funding for Southwest Light Rail onto the bill, killing the legislation and preventing it from passing before time ran out. This $1.79 billion train costs $123 million per mile to build, not including future operating costs, and is something that I do not believe is a good use of taxpayer dollars. Ninety-eight percent of Minnesotans use our roads and bridges every day to get to work, school, etc., and I am disappointed that significant funding for roads and bridges was held up at the last minute over this boondoggle.
House Republicans have asked Governor Dayton to call a one-day special session so we can repass the transportation bonding bill and invest significant money in vital transportation projects across the state. I will keep you updated on that if a special session is called.
While I am disappointed that the Senate pulled a political stunt at the last moment to kill transportation funding, I am still pleased with the meaningful tax relief we were able to pass this year.
As always, please do not hesitate to contact my office if I can be of assistance to you or your family on a matter of state government. I am here to serve you!
Have a wonderful Memorial Day weekend.