Lots of miles this week! Spent time in St. Paul working on what to do with the excess tax dollars Minnesota continues to collect.
This week the Minnesota Management & Budget announced that we will collect about $1.8 billion more in taxes than our two-year budget authorizes the state to spend.
About $594 million of those surplus dollars will automatically go to our budget reserves. That will still leave about $1.2 billion in excess tax revenue to deal with in the 2016 legislative session.
My approach remains unchanged. We must reform a system that continues to over-collect. We start by ending Minnesota’s practice of collecting state income tax on our seniors’ Social Security retirement benefits. My proposal remains active and is included in the House’s comprehensive tax reform bill. That proposal along with reducing the state business property tax on our small businesses remains a priority. We need to leave those dollars in our senior’s pockets and on the bottom line of our small businesses.
We also must fix transportation. Last session the governor and Senate stymied that effort by demanding the gas tax be raised. However, yesterday the governor indicated he is dropping his demand to raise the gas tax. That clears a major road block to sending sales tax dollars you already pay on tires, batteries and other auto repair services directly to fixing roads and replace aging bridges.
We also must reform the rate structure and support for our disabled. This year we made progress with our nursing homes, but work remains to be done in our support for the disabled. Improving broadband coverage here in rural Minnesota also remains on my priority work list.
Thursday found me in Duluth at the Natural Resources Research Institute working on increasing the use of forest products to produce bio-chemicals that will reduce our dependence on fossil fuels. We are making progress and over the long term we should a see new sustainable markets for our area’s timber resources.
As I hit the send button, the week isn’t finished yet. I’m off to the Minnesota State Cattlemen’s Annual Convention. It will a great opportunity to hear firsthand how things are going in that part of Minnesota’s agriculture industry.