My fellow Minnesota lawmakers and I have returned to St. Paul for the start of the 2018 Legislative Session. With a two-year budget approved last year, you may be wondering what legislators might be working on over the next three months. In reality, we have much to accomplish.
First, federal tax conformity needs to be addressed. While this won’t impact anyone’s tax returns this year, the federal bill would definitely come into play at this time next year, which is why some legislative urgency is needed.
Conforming to the federal tax code would cause Minnesota to experience an increase in tax revenue. This is why lawmakers will need to take a careful look at the ramifications of this tax change. Expect there to be much debate as to how we allocate or return this money.
The odds are also strong that we’ll approve a capital investment plan this year. This bill funds construction projects across Minnesota, and despite the fact that we approved a $987 million bonding bill last year, I expect there will be a strong push for another proposal in the weeks ahead.
As vice-chair of the Minnesota House Transportation Finance Committee, I can tell you with certainty that MNLARS, Minnesota’s new licensing and registration system, will be discussed.
Despite nearly ten years of planning and $100 million in taxpayer funds spent on it, MNLARS has been a disaster since going online in July. Deputy registrars and countless citizens have reported difficulties obtaining vehicle titles, tabs and license plates, and our committee had been told by the Dayton administration that these problems were fixable and that a lack of funding was not the issue.
However, several weeks later, the Dayton administration announced that another $43 million was needed to address the MNLARS mess.
It is mind-boggling that those in charge allowed this critical statewide program to get to this point without changing leadership or plotting a new course of action. Yet here we are, being told that a massive taxpayer bailout is now needed to make the program functional. Add in the fact that sometime next year MNLARS is supposed to begin issuing drivers’ licenses – including those with Real ID – and you can see why this topic is giving many lawmakers – and me - heartburn. We will have to get this fixed, there is no option here.
Finally, I will once again address the children identity theft dilemma by pursuing legislation that would give parents the right to obtain a security freeze for their children. Discovering that a child’s credit history has been abused for years by a cyber thief is not a situation teenagers want to face, and I'm hopeful this legislation will give parents another tool to better protect their son’s or daughter’s identity.
As always, please contact me if you have questions, comments, or concerns. Reach me by email at email@example.com or call my office at 651-296-5368. I look forward to hearing from you!