Happy New Year!
It’s hard to believe that the first week of 2020 has already come and gone. With the calendar turning to January, I am preparing for the coming legislative session—set to begin on February 11th.
No single issue will likely impact the 2020 session more than the state’s projected $1.3 billion budget surplus. State economists broke the news of the projected surplus in early December.
The state’s substantial budget surplus is due in large part to a robust state and federal economy that has brought increased revenue to the state of Minnesota. Thanks to this budget surplus, there should be no discussion of raising taxes this session.
Instead, we should focus our efforts this session on providing additional tax relief for hardworking Minnesotans and their families. One idea could be additional senior citizen tax relief, specifically eliminating the state law that forces income taxation of Social Security benefits.
It is always good news to be facing a budget surplus as opposed to a deficit, but we need to remember that this surplus belongs to hardworking Minnesotans.
Other big-ticket issues likely to be addressed during this year’s session include:
Additionally, I have committed to work with the Legislature’s Civility Caucus to enact reforms to our legislative process. Last session we saw 199 of the 201 legislators shut out of the process at the end of session that produced the biennial budget and the final omnibus bills for 2019. That should tell us our current process is broken. This week, I joined current and former legislators (pictured below) who gathered at the Capitol to begin a dialogue about working more productively in a bi-partisan fashion, including a commitment to enact much-needed reforms.
During December and now into January, I am meeting with businesses and local governments about their priorities. Pictured here are Senator Eichorn and me with Angela Ledding from Northview Bank, Jef Fisher of the First State Bank of Bigfork and Brian Nicklason of Woodland Bank who were convened by the Senate Commerce Committee Chair, Senator Gary Dahms (far right).
The meeting gave us a good opportunity to hear about issues of importance to the independent community bankers including regulatory burdens, consumer protections, health insurance costs and the need for full conformity with Section 179 of the federal tax reform.
Energy issues will continue to receive legislative attention. A recent meeting with Minnesota Power officials focused on the company’s leading role in Minnesota in moving to renewables – from just 5% in 2005 to 50% to be achieved in 2021.
At a recent meeting in Walker, Cass County Commissioners commended legislators for our work in transportation funding and asked for continued help with the need for mental health facilities, tribal tax agreements, and state-ordered tax valuations.
In mid-December, Senator Eichorn and I met with the Itasca Area School Collaborative to discuss their legislative priorities which include allowing districts to use lease levies for cooperative facilities, increased funding for the general education funding formula, reduction of the Special Education Cross Subsidy, making increased funding for safe schools permanent, measures to address the teacher shortage, and looking at a pilot program for 5-year-old pre-school funding.
Also in December, I traveled to Cass Lake to participate in a meeting convened by Itasca Economic Development Corporation with leaders of the Leech Lake Indian Reservation and the City of Deer River to talk about working together to successfully push for funding for the wastewater improvements needed for any additional development to take place in the city. This was a very productive meeting and I believe the support of the Tribe will be beneficial as we, once again, push for funding through the bonding bill.
Today, I will be meeting with Itasca Economic Development Corporation followed by a meeting with Itasca County Commissioners and department heads regarding their legislative priorities. Already, I have begun seeking state help on several fronts to assist with the costs and, ultimately, the funding of a mandated jail expansion in Itasca County.
And, next week I will be part of two legislative panels in preparation for the 2020 session – the first hosted by the Minnesota Council on Disability in St. Paul to discuss issues of importance to Minnesotans with disabilities and the second with Grand Rapids Area Chamber of Commerce members to discuss issues of importance to the business community.
Senator Eichorn and I will also be meeting next week with officials from the City of Grand Rapids regarding their request for a local option sales tax.
Stay in Touch
Please reach out to me with your thoughts and suggestions as we prepare for the 2020 session. It would be great to hear from you about the things that matter most to you and your family.
I can be reached by phone at 651-296-4936 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Have a great weekend,