By Rep. Dean Urdahl
The Legislature is looking to build on last year’s successes – highlighted by historic tax relief and landmark funding for roads and bridges – as the 2018 session begins Feb. 20 in St. Paul.
In 2017, we delivered more than $650 million in tax relief for Minnesota families in 2018-19 and approximately $750 million more for 2020-21. That marks the largest tax relief package for Minnesotans in nearly two decades. More than 280,000 senior citizen tax returns (single and married filing jointly) are expected to show state tax reductions. An estimated 72,000 will no longer pay state income tax on their Social Security benefits.
As for transportation, we approved the largest investment in road and bridge infrastructure in state history, providing billions over the next decade for transportation without increasing the gas tax or tab fees. The bill provides $300 million more in transportation funding this biennium alone. That includes a significant increase in funding for local roads and bridges, with $48 million additionally going to counties and $15 million to cities.
Also of note, the K-12 education budget we set provides more than $1.3 billion in increased funding, 2 percent more to the per-pupil formula each of the next two years as our school districts requested.
With that work done and the state budget in place through June 2019, passage of a capital investment bill – aka bonding – to fund construction projects throughout the state will be a major issue this session. Last session, my first as chairman of the House Capital Investment Committee, we led to enactment a $987 million bonding bill that prioritized funding for infrastructure and roads and bridges.
This year, the governor proposes $1.5 billion in bonding. That total seems too expensive to pass the Legislature, especially since it is $600 million more than anticipated in the last budget forecast. Difficult decisions will have to be made, especially since this year’s bonding requests will exceed the final bill total by approximately a 4-to-1 ratio.
Taxes again will be a top issues during the 2018 session as we address tax conformity following the federal government’s major recent changes. Our goal will be to hold Minnesota taxpayers harmless as we match state tax code with new federal provisions.
We also need to fix the new Minnesota Licensing and Registration System for motor vehicles that is causing frustration and headaches for people renewing their tabs and getting their vehicle registrations. Almost $100 million in taxpayer money has been spent so far on the project and now state officials say they need another $43 million to fix the many problems and get the new system up and running. House members are working to fix this problem, while also protecting taxpayers from paying more to cover up costly mistakes.
It is a pleasure to continue representing the people of District 18A at the Capitol and your input always is welcome by calling (651) 296-4344 or by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.