Dear Friends and Neighbors,
Spoiler alert: I like to keep my updates to you upbeat and forward-looking. This week, however, I need to share with you my complete disappointment in the recent vetoes of some of our bills to help Minnesotans.
On May 20th, we wrapped up the legislative session by putting bills on the governor’s desk to cut taxes, provide schools with more funding, and expand broadband in rural parts of the state. Moreover, we took major steps to address and fix the enormous challenges faced by Minnesotans due to the Dayton administration’s MNLARS debacle and the revelation of years of elder abuse reports neglected by Minnesota’s Department of Health and Human Services. We completed our work on schedule and made a good-faith effort at compromise. Despite the compromise effort, the governor vetoed our tax and school funding bill as well as our supplemental budget, which will mean major consequences for many, many Minnesotans.
Coming into this session, we knew that one of our top priorities would be to pass tax conformity legislation to make it easier to file taxes in 2019. The bill we passed would have made tax filing much simpler and deliver tax relief for 2.2 million filers, with 99.8 percent of Minnesotans seeing tax relief or being held harmless. It would be the first income rate reduction in Minnesota since 2000. Also included in the tax bill was my legislation creating an occupation tax credit for taconite plants. This would have been welcomed by Minnesota’s six taconite plants and has been a priority policy position for the industry for some time. I’m disappointed Governor Dayton couldn’t see all the positive parts of our bill and instead chose to veto it.
During his press conference to discuss the vetoes, Governor Dayton couldn’t name more than two reasons for vetoing our supplemental budget proposal. This is disappointing, especially when you consider all those who will be negatively impacted by his intransigence. The legislature met the governor more than halfway, addressing nearly 70% of the objections he put in writing. Unfortunately, he decided he needed all or nothing—that doesn't seem like compromise to me.
It’s disappointing to pass these bipartisan bills to help schools, make it easier to file taxes, care for our elderly and disabled, and combat the opioid epidemic, only to have them vetoed.
Local Projects in Bonding Bill
The House and Senate also passed our bonding bill that prioritized asset preservation, water infrastructure, transportation, and school safety grants. With so many statewide priorities, I’m really pleased to see several of my bills to fund local projects in our final proposal. The bonding legislation includes $1 million to the city of Cohasset to match other funding to complete the Tioga Recreational area, funding for radio infrastructure through Itasca County that is critical to the continuation of Northern Community Radio based in Grand Rapids, and over $2 million for the Grand Rapids Armory renovation. Getting these projects in our bonding bill was a top priority for me this session, as it also is for the many volunteers and staff who are working on and advocating for these projects. My hope is that Governor Dayton will sign the bonding bill soon.
DJJ Bill Passes
Although it was a smaller, standalone provision, I was fortunate to pass a bill – on unanimous votes in the House and Senate – that clarifies current statute relating to the DJJ economic protection trust fund. The change ensures money in the fund is only used for the benefit of the Taconite Assistance Area and shall not be expended, appropriated, or transferred from the fund for any other purpose. My legislation is simple, and essentially puts an exclamation point on our current law to better keep DJJ funds in the Taconite Assistance Area. These dollars are intended to be used for our area, and the passage of this bill can help avoid unlawful tinkering by future legislatures.
At a May 21st meeting of the IRRRB (shown in photo), it was reported that Governor Dayton is also likely to sign this bill which was amended in Conference Committee to include policy provisions requested by the Department of Iron Range Resources and Rehabilitation.
It is promising to be a beautiful Memorial Day weekend with plenty of sunshine and temperatures in the 80’s. Though it’s easy to think of Memorial Day weekend as a fun time to kick off the summer, it’s important to remember the reason for this holiday is to honor the men and women who’ve given the ultimate sacrifice for our country. Please take a moment this weekend to remember all these brave Americans who’ve fought and died for our freedom.
I want to say a sincere thank you to all who called, emailed, or visited me at the Capitol over the last two years. It’s been the experience of a lifetime to be a voice for our area and I’m humbled by this honor. I am viewing the governor’s vetoes as a temporary setback and I am committed to picking up this work again with a new governor and moving Minnesota forward.
Though we’re finished with this session, I still encourage anyone from our area to contact me if I can help you with anything.
Have a great weekend!