The 2016 legislative session begins tomorrow, and our state is heading into this year with a budget surplus of $900 million. That is great news for the state of our state, and this positive financial outlook means we can invest in Minnesotans' shared priorities this session—transportation and tax relief.
Last year, House Republicans advanced the Road and Bridge Act, a comprehensive $7 billion, 10-year transportation plan that invests in our infrastructure without taking more from family budgets. Folks in my district overwhelmingly made clear that they opposed a wholesale gas tax increase which would have cost drivers hundreds of dollars more per year, while at the same time wanted to see state leaders prioritize transportation with existing revenue. The Road and Bridge Act does just that.
In total, the plan will repair or replace more than 15,500 lane miles of road and 330 bridges statewide without raising taxes. It will be paid for in part from a new Transportation Stability Fund which collects existing proceeds from dedicated tax revenues like the sales tax on auto parts and rental vehicles.
What's more, the expansion of the Small Cities Program means that there will be more than $1.6 million in the first year of implementation for communities outside of Saint Cloud in Stearns, Benton and Sherburne Counties with populations fewer than 5,000 people to help fix roads and fill potholes.
Transportation is an essential investment for commuters and commerce in our community and our state, and the Road and Bridge Act is a top priority when we reconvene for the 2016 session.
But of course, transportation was not the only issue left unfinished when the legislature adjourned last spring. Hardworking taxpayers and families deserve tax relief, and House Republicans will be advocating for tax legislation again this session.
Last year, the House advanced $2 billion tax relief legislation that benefited just about everyone: families, college students, aging adults, veterans, farmers and entrepreneurs. Our plan did everything from phasing out the income tax on social security to help seniors living on a fixed income to expanding education tax deductions for Minnesota families. I am hoping we can advance a middle-class tax relief bill again this session, one that garners strong bipartisan support and is signed into law by the governor.
When Minnesotans are able to keep more of their hard-earned money, it means they can save more and spend more in our local economy, helping local businesses grow, thrive and hire. It's a win-win for our state, and something that I will be advocating for again this year.
Beyond transportation and tax relief, I want to hear from folks in our community about their priorities for state government. I welcome your input on legislation and want to hear more about issues important to you. Please don’t hesitate to schedule a meeting, call my office or send me an email. I am here to serve you!
It’s an honor to be your voice at the Capitol.