Thank you to the approximately 500 people from our area who participated in the legislative survey I recently conducted. Your input is very valuable.
Something that directly relates to the decisions we will make with respect to the projected $900 million surplus is that 92 percent of you say the surplus is the result of over-taxation.
On what to do with the projected surplus, phasing out Minnesota's state income tax on seniors' Social Security retirement benefits is at the top of the list at 61 percent.
For well over a year that has been your message and I continue to work on that. My proposal to phase out Minnesota income tax on Social Security retirement benefits remains in the House/Senate conference committee under consideration yet this session.
In second place, with a 50-percent response, is investing more in new permanent funding to fix our roads and bridges. I have legislation in our transportation bill that does that, without raising the gas tax.
We also learned that 88 percent feel pipelines are a safer way to transport crude oil.
An 87-percent majority indicates they think we can built and safely operate pipelines in Aitkin and Crow Wing counties.
When asked if we should mine minerals such as manganese, copper, nickel, gold and silver in our Minnesota, 84 percent say "yes."
Those are just a few highlights. The complete results are listed below. Thank you again to all that completed surveys either by paper or via the Internet.
(1) Minnesota is projected to have about a $900 million surplus by the end of the 2016-17 biennium. This was largely because:
8% The governor and Legislature did not spend enough
92% The governor and Legislature are collecting to much in taxes
(2) Pick the two most important ideas on what should be done with the surplus money:
61% Phase out Minnesota's state income tax on seniors' Social Security retirement benefits
2% Spend more on the MNSure Health Insurance program
50% Provide new permanent funding to fix our roads and bridges
6% Provide new public school pre-kindergarten classes for all 4-year-olds
30% Reduce the taxes paid on the self-employed and small businesses in rural Minnesota
6% Pay communication companies to improve broad band service
10% Spend more on in-home-assistance and group homes for disabled and handicapped
26% Return some or all directly to the taxpayers with a check
11% Improve our state hospital system where the severely mentally ill are placed
(3) Every other year the Legislature passes a bonding bill to fund major capital investments for projects of statewide and regional significance. The governor's proposal includes no bonding money for outstate Minnesota’s road and bridges. Do you agree with the governor that we do not need to invest any bonding dollars to replace local bridges and repair roads outside the metro area?
(4) Which method do you believe is the safest way to transport crude oil to the refineries located in Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Illinois?
9% By train
88% By pipeline
3% By tanker truck
(5) Do you believe that oil and gas pipelines can be safely built and operated in Aitkin and Crow Wing counties?
(6) Do you believe that minerals such as manganese, copper, nickel, gold and silver should be mined in Minnesota?
(7) Should state tax dollars be used to purchase more public land in our part of Minnesota to provide additional wildlife habitat?
(8) Should the law be changed to allow local businesses to sell liquor for off-premises consumption on Sunday?
35% Sunday sales should be allowed if the local county or city agrees to permit it