The 2016 legislative session is officially over with final adjournment taking place late Sunday night. In the final days of session, the House and Senate passed a handful of bills that will bring much needed tax relief to Minnesotans across the state. Before I discuss these tax cuts, I want to discuss the bonding bill that failed to pass the Senate on Sunday night.
This year’s bonding bill was the best bonding bill I have voted for during my time at the legislature. It was heavy on road and bridge funding and other public works projects.
I was able to secure much needed funding for the West Leaf Lake dam as part of the bonding bill. Even though this project was not a part of the DNR’s priority list, it was a priority for residents who live near the dam. It is important that this funding remains in the bill if the governor decides to call a special session.
In total, the bill would have funded nearly $700 million in road and bridge projects around the state—with zero dollars going towards light rail trains in the Twin Cities.
Unfortunately, the bill failed when the Senate broke an agreement with the House by adding an amendment to the bill that expanded taxing authority related to light rail expansion.
Here are some facts and figures demonstrating how bad a deal light rail is for Minnesota taxpayers:
- The Southwest Light Rail train costs $1.79 billion to build. That's about $123 million per mile just for construction, which does not include oprating costs once the line is built
- For light rail, Minnesota subsidizes about $1.46 per rider, with all taxpayers contributing about $4.21 once sales tax and other local taxes are included
- The Northstar Commuter Line costs $24.42 overall in per-rider subsidies and is also the most expensive mode to operate costing nearly $1,000 to run for every hour it is operating
- The federal government typically contributes 50% of capital for major transit projects and the state pays up to 10%. In the case of Southwest Light Rail, the federal government (still your tax dollars) is paying about $900 million and the state would pay $135 million
Even though this is frustrating, remember that we were able to stop the largest gas tax increase and license tab fee hike in state history from becoming law.
So, where do we go from here?
House leaders have urged the governor to call a special session to pass the bonding bill and finish our work. Stay tuned.
Despite this disappointment, we were able to pass some significant tax relief this year. It is not as much relief as the House would have liked, but it will still have a meaningful impact on Minnesotans across the state.
The tax bill includes $801 million in tax relief over the next three years with more than half a billion in ongoing, permanent relief. Important provisions in the bill include a first-in-the nation student loan tax credit, an expansion of the child care tax credit, tax deductions and credits for families contributing to a 529 Savings Plan and significant property tax relief for businesses.
Also, included in a supplemental budget bill are three more important tax relief provisions including the exemption of military veteran pensions from state income tax for 18,000 Minnesota veterans, an additional Angel Investor Tax Credit to encourage investments in Minnesota businesses and a tax credit for parents of still-born children.
As always, I will keep you updated as more news becomes available regarding a special session. Please make sure to contact me if you have any comments or questions, I can be reached via phone at 651-296-3201 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
I truly represent the best!