Last session, Minnesota lawmakers crafted a balanced budget for the next two years. But a pair of items were left on the table, and several more will likely receive attention as we look ahead at the to-do lists of lawmakers when they return to the State Capitol on March 8.
A $2 billion tax relief proposal for middle class Minnesotans was approved by the Minnesota House in 2015, but a compromise could not be reached with the Senate before session adjourned, so negotiators can pick up where they left off in 2016.
Working families, college students, aging adults and veterans would all benefit under this plan. Farmers would see relief from school district debt service through a new property tax credit, and Main Street business owners in Greater Minnesota would benefit from the elimination of the state general tax, which costs them thousands of dollars every year.
In transportation, the House approved the Road and Bridge Act which would invest $7 billion over the next decade into statewide road and bridge needs without raising taxes. A good share of the funding comes from a number of taxes that are already being collected. Small town street needs are also a top priority in this bill as communities with fewer than 5,000 residents would be eligible for this new funding source. The Senate had previously approved legislation that would inevitably raise the cost of gasoline by a minimum of 16-cents per gallon, so negotiations clearly must continue.
Roughly $11 million was dedicated by the legislature for broadband last year, and I believe discussions for additional funding will continue this year. Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle recognize that reliable broadband technology is one of the top ways to enhance economic development in Greater Minnesota, so new discussions between the House and Senate are inevitable.
Finally, a capital investment proposal that would help fund a number of statewide construction projects will almost certainly receive debate. I am hopeful this proposal will ultimately include bonding proceeds allowing both Montevideo and Bemidji to help meet the necessary state funding match in order for the construction of veterans' homes in both communities, as there is a great need for these facilities in Minnesota.