The new legislative class was sworn into office Tuesday. It was a wonderful day. We were able to enjoy the newly refurbished capital building. Our capital building looks as fresh and new as the day it first opened more than a century ago.
This year our primary task is the next two-year state budget. We have to be responsible to the taxpayers by funding what is needed and resist the temptation to solve every problem by simply throwing more money at it.
Within the budget discussion, three statewide areas need special attention: fixing the current health insurance crisis, trimming the excessive amount of taxes our citizens are being charged and implementing a long-term road and bridge funding program.
Locally, I continue to monitor execution of the $4 million aid package we passed last year for the Mille Lacs Lake area, and closely follow the DNR’s management of the lake itself. Continued enhancement of the Cuyuna Country State Recreation Area and expanding area ATV and snowmobile trails also remain a priority.
This week I introduced two tax reform bills. H.F. 9 would phase out the state income tax on Social Security retirement pensions. H.F. 12 would freeze the state general business tax automatic inflator, and create a significant market value exclusion for businesses that are subject to the state general tax.
On Thursday we passed H.F. 2: Federal Tax Conformity. That legislation will save Minnesotans about $21.7 million they will not have to pay if Minnesota’s tax law conforms to federal provisions. The bill passed 130-0 and awaits a vote in the Senate.
We also moved to expedite H.F. 1, the 2017 Health Care Emergency Aid and Access bill, which provides premium relief, and extends access to doctors for continuity of care. Unfortunately, my friends across the aisle blocked the measure from moving forward in timely manner by refusing to agree to suspend regular House order and fast-track passage of the bill.
H.F. 1 provides help on the skyrocketing health insurance premiums many Minnesotans face this year. It also puts in a four-month circuit breaker for people that were forced off their existing health plan and now must change doctors, hospitals and specialists in the middle of life-threatening illnesses, pregnancy care and acute conditions that demand special attention.
Despite the frustrating foot-dragging by some here in St. Paul, I will stay focused on fixing the current crisis many face with the cost of health care insurance.