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Rep. Eric Lucero (30B) - May 25 Legislative Update

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Dear Neighbor,

As we approach Memorial Day weekend and we remember the brave men and women who gave their life in service for our country, we are reminded of Christ’s words in John 15:13 Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.

The last day of the legislative session was this past Monday. There were many positive outcomes resulting from the session but unfortunately some disappointments as well.

TAX CUTS

When Democrats had full control of state government in 2013-14 with majorities in the House, Senate, and the governor’s office, Democrats thrust the largest tax hike in state history upon hard working Minnesota families and businesses by more than $2 billion. This session, Republicans seeking to cut taxes fought Democrats and won key victories in several areas. Tax cuts totaling more than $800 million over the next three years include:

  • State income taxes will no longer apply to veterans pension benefits
  • People who've suffered unfortunate loss due to a stillborn birth will now qualify for a $2,000 tax credit
  • $90.6 million in tax relief for Minnesota farmers
  • $110 million in tax relief for college graduates paying off student loans through a refundable tax credit up to $1,000, the first of its kind in the country
  • $49 million in tax relief for families who contribute to 529 plans to save for their children's college costs
  • $146 million in tax relief for every small business in Minnesota by exempting the first $100,000 of commercial-industrial property
  • $13 million in tax relief for Minnesota veterans by raising the income eligibility threshold, and increasing the total credit from $750 to $1000
  • $150 million in tax relief for working families by expanding the working family tax credit
  • $32 million to reduce the cost of childcare by expanding the childcare tax credit, families could earn a tax credit up to a $960

EDUCATION

I’ve been fighting hard for the cause of equity in education seeking to close the per-student funding gap for our schools vs. schools in the metro area. To this end, I was chief author of a bill to extend the Metro Equity funding categorical to include our schools. A provision was included and passed this session to extend the Metro Equity funding categorical to all school districts statewide! The additional money our schools will receive as a result could allow for 2-3 new teachers to be hired. This is a huge victory in our ongoing fight to close the funding gap!

TRANSPORTATION vs. BONDING

As I’ve been saying a long time now, government does not have a revenue problem. Rather, government has a spending priorities problem. House Republicans passed a strong transportation bill that included the start of a 10-year plan to fund to roads and bridges without raising taxes and without wasteful spending on Southwest Light Rail. Senate Democrats and the governor rejected the House transportation plan due to their unreasonable demand for new taxes. As a result, months of attempted negotiations failed and a transportation bill never came together.

Funding earmarks for specific road projects are not typically included in the transportation bill.  Instead, the transportation bill allocates money to grant programs such as the Corridors of Commerce grant program, the TED grant program, etc. MnDOT staff then evaluate road projects and grant applications to select which transportation projects to fund. Funding grants are awarded from the pool of grant money provided in the transportation bill until the pool of grant money is exhausted.

The bonding bills operate much different than the transportation bill in that projects included in bonding bills are specifically identified and allocated specified dollar amounts. An example is one of I-94 Corridor Coalition’s priority projects (the Brockton Interchange) was included in the original bonding bill as a specifically identified project separate from Corridors of Commerce funding.

In the last 36 hours or so prior to the deadline to pass bills, when it became obvious transportation bill negotiations were gridlocked due to Democrat demands for tax increases, House/Senate leadership attempted to salvage some roads and bridges transportation projects by including some Corridors of Commerce funding in the bonding bill. Because projects included in the bonding bill are specifically identified and allocated specified dollar amounts, leadership selected several transportation projects that would have traditionally been funded with Corridors of Commerce grant money. The newly negotiated bonding bill was released approximately 45 minutes prior to the midnight Sunday deadline and unfortunately the other I-94 Corridor Coalition’s priority project (adding a third lane on I-94 between Saint Michael and Albertville) was not included in the bonding bill. The bonding bill passed the House and was sent to the Senate approximately 15 minutes prior to the midnight deadline.

With only minutes remaining to pass the bonding bill, Senate Democrats amended the bill to include funding for Southwest Light Rail. Including funding for Southwest Light Rail in the bonding bill violated the bonding bill agreement between House/Senate leadership. Democrats adding the amendment to fund Southwest Light Rail chewed up too much time leaving the Senate unable to pass the bonding bill that was agreed to. As a result, Democrats killed the comprehensive transportation/bonding bill.

There are now rumors of a potential special session to pass transportation and bonding bills Democrats killed.  Stay tuned…

As always, please contact me with any questions or concerns I may be able to assist you with and please have a blessed weekend as we remember this coming Memorial Day!

Sincerely,

Rep. Eric Lucero

State Representative
District 30B
Albertville, Hanover, Otsego, Saint Michael, and the Wright County portion of Dayton

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