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Legislative News and Views - Rep. Paul Torkelson (R)

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Thursday, February 18, 2016

The 2016 session will begin in the coming weeks, and lawmakers face a very unusual situation. Normally the biggest highlight of an even-year session is the capital investment bill, which borrows money in order to fund statewide construction projects.


This year, three major bills will take center stage: taxes, transportation, and capital investment.


You'll recall last session Minnesota had a large budget surplus. With that in mind, House Republicans approved legislation that would have provided tax relief to millions of Minnesotans – including working families, senior citizens, veterans, farmers, and small business owners. We also approved a bill that would invest $7 billion into statewide road and bridge needs without raising taxes. The House legislation also included street repair funding for cities with less than 5,000 residents. In our legislative district, that would result in nearly $546,000 being allocated to our small towns.


What we ran into was a governor and a Senate majority that favored a tax plan that ultimately would have raised gasoline prices by a minimum of 16-cents per gallon in order to raise money for transportation.


The House thought it was senseless to raise anyone's taxes in the face of a surplus, and Senate Democrats and Governor Dayton wouldn't go along with any tax relief proposal unless the House increased taxes on gasoline. Neither side blinked, and because of that a long-term transportation funding proposal and tax relief for hardworking Minnesotans was lost in 2015.


The good news is compromise negotiations on these two proposals can begin immediately during the 2016 session. And it gives legislative leadership a chance to coordinate all three proposals, as funding allocated in one bill (transportation, for example) could impact the future outlook of another (capital investment).


With all three of these proposals still outstanding, caucus leaders and committee chairpersons from the House and Senate can begin to look at the whole puzzle and make sure the tax relief, transportation, and capital investment proposals coordinate nicely.


As chairman of the capital investment committee, my focus will be to ensure that projects of statewide benefit will be prioritized in our bonding bill. We don't want misuse the state's credit card and borrow up to our limit. Having toured the state and paged through dozens of proposals totaling billions of dollars, I can tell you there are many worthwhile projects out there and that the final selection process will be strenuous.


Moving forward, I will be sure to keep you updated on the progress of the "Big Three" bills: transportation, tax relief and capital investment. If you have any legislative questions or comments in the future, please contact me. I can be reached by email at and by phone at 651-296-9303.


Thank you for the privilege of representing your interests in the Minnesota House, and I look forward to hearing from you soon.