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Legislative News and Views - Rep. Eric Lucero (R)

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Rep. Eric Lucero (30B) - Legislative Update

Friday, May 1, 2015

Rep. Peggy Scott and I examine fiscal data in the House chamber.

Dear Neighbor,

Greetings from St. Paul, where we are in the home stretch of the legislative session with less than three weeks to go. The House worked this week passing several omnibus finance bills containing Republican provisions aimed at realigning government spending to the priorities of hard working Minnesota families.

K-12 Education Finance

As a teacher myself and one who deeply cares about education for the next generation, ensuring access to high-quality education and student opportunities is very important to me. It is for this reason I am working hard to increase funding for our rural districts and begin to close the funding inequity gap between those school districts at the top receiving the most funding versus rural school districts such as ours with funding levels well below the state average.

The House Republican omnibus education finance bill which passed off the House floor spends $16.87 billion, a $1.06 billion increase over current spending and includes a number of reforms to improve student learning by empowering teachers and schools, giving flexibility to school districts, putting teaching before testing, prioritizing early childhood learning and providing more equitable funding.

While the House education finance bill does not eliminate the funding inequity gap for our rural districts, the House bill does move us in the right direction to begin closing the funding inequity gap. Now that the omnibus bill has passed the House, the next step is to negotiate with the Senate. I am continuing my efforts to urge the Conference Committee negotiating team to do more to provide our rural schools additional funding to continue progress closing the funding inequity gap.

Also, the education finance bill was amended on the House floor to require schools maintain separate facilities (bathrooms, locker rooms, etc.) based on biological sex. Regarding students uncomfortable using the facility that corresponds with their birth sex, individual student needs can continue to be met by schools providing access to private or other facilities. I am a strong supporter of the provision because I believe it is very important we protect basic physical privacy and safety rights of our children. I voted in favor of the amendment.

Tax Cuts

House Republican omnibus tax bill directs $2 billion in tax relief to middle-class families, college students, aging adults and veterans, farmers and job creators and innovators.

Among the most exciting provisions in the package is a new Minnesota personal or dependent tax exemption estimated to save a middle-class family of four more than $500 over the next two years. Republicans recognize while the state has a projected budget surplus of nearly $2 billion, most families do not the benefit of surpluses in their household budgets.

Another exciting provision will phase out Minnesota's tax on Social Security benefits. Estimates indicate tax savings in the range of $280 to $600 per person. Our state is one of only six nationwide that fully taxes Social Security and eliminating that tax will be very helpful to seniors, many of whom are living on fixed incomes with tight monthly budgets.

Other tax cuts include:

  • 240,000 farmers estimated to receive tax cuts through a property tax credit that reduces their disproportionate share of school district debt service

  • 130,000 families with pre-kindergarteners estimated to receive tax cuts through the expansion of the education deduction to include pre-kindergarten expenses

  • 109,500 college students estimated to receive tax cuts through student loan debt relief via a NEW tax credit for principal and interest loan payments on student loans

Health and Human Services

The House's Health and Human Services omnibus bill is about reclaiming our state's place as a world leader in health care. In total, the bill spends $11.81 billion. This is a $634 million increase over current spending, but it does help us to lower the trajectory of growth in HHS spending.

The House proposal revamps the statewide reimbursement system that will result in a funding increase for nursing homes, totaling more than $138 million. Additionally, the bill includes $90 million for a 5-percent cost-of-living adjustment for home and community-based care workers.

Higher Education

The House's higher education finance bill provides a partial tuition freeze for students at state colleges, works to shrink student debt, and improves student safety on campuses statewide. The bill provides $1.2 billion funding to the University of Minnesota, and $1.3 billion funding to the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities system (MNSCU).

Public Safety

The public safety omnibus bill provides $2.1 billion to fund the budgets of the Department of Corrections, six of the 11 divisions of the Department of Public Safety, Supreme Court, Court of Appeals, District Courts, Tax Court, Board of Judicial Standards, Guardian Ad Litem Board, Public Defense Board, Sentencing Guidelines Commission, Peace Officer Standards and Training Board, and Uniform Law Commission.

All of these bills now are in the hands of joint House-Senate conference committees. Those groups are working to reconcile differences between House and Senate versions of each bill so they can return to the respective bodies for final passage before being presented to the governor for his action. The Legislature is set to adjourn May 18, so much will transpire between now and then.

As always, please contact me with your feedback on any issue and let me know if there is any way I may be of assistance.

Sincerely,
Eric Lucero
State Rep. District 30B
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