I’d like to sincerely thank everyone who attended our Town Hall Listening Session on Saturday. We had an overflow crowd and Sen. Cwodzinski and I were both thrilled with the tremendous turnout. We’re honored to represent such an engaged community; you can read about it in the Eden Prairie News.
I continue to meet with constituents here at the Capitol, as well. In the past week, I’ve met with folks including students from the University of Minnesota, students from Eden Prairie High School, and the Hopkins School District’s Legislative Action Coalition.
Earlier this week, Minnesota Management and Budget released the February Economic Forecast showing a $1.65 billion surplus for the coming biennium. This is up from the $1.4 billion anticipated in November. Our economy is stable with low unemployment, businesses that are expanding, and a strong housing market.
This is all good news and gives us an opportunity to make needed investments in our students, job training opportunities, and transportation infrastructure. We can also find common ground to give tools to small and medium sized businesses, and cut taxes for homeowners, renters and seniors. This will all keep our state economy headed in the right direction.
However, budget experts have also pointed to federal uncertainty as potentially causing bumpy economic conditions down the line, so we cannot be fiscally reckless. We must maintain a healthy rainy day fund to ensure breathing room if we were to experience a downturn.
Overall though, our state is doing well, and by setting smart priorities, we can ensure our economy continues to grow and all Minnesotans can have opportunities to do well.
Student Loan Refinancing
On Tuesday, in the House Higher Education Committee, I will present my first bill in committee. The bill, HF 1500, is a bipartisan measure to expand the state’s student loan refinancing program, SELF Refi. This program, launched last year, has enabled students with high interest rates to lower their payments. Restrictions on the program though, such as certain credit scores and debt-to-income requirements, have limited the number of Minnesotans fully able to take advantage of the program. My bill will remove some of these barriers and help those most burdened by student debt. Student loan refinancing will also help reduce the drag massive student debt has on our economy.
As you know, last week the House passed with my support a bill to legalize the retail sale of liquor on Sundays. Since then the Minnesota Senate has passed the bill, with a couple of minor changes, including limiting hours of sale from 11:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. The amended version of the bill was brought up on the House floor today, it was repassed, and it’s now on its way to Governor Dayton’s desk.
One measure that has found a hurdle is the effort to bring Minnesota’s drivers’ licenses into compliance with federal Real ID requirements in order to board an airplane or enter military bases or certain federal facilities. This should be a rather straightforward bill, but some GOP representatives have inserted unrelated language dealing with immigration into the bill. This passed the House floor last week, but the Senate has indicated a preference for a clean bill without the immigration language. I agree, and hope we can remove doubt Minnesotans may have whether or not their license is adequate to fly.
Please continue to reach out with your feedback on any issue that’s important to you. Feel free to email or call me at the Capitol any time.