Here is an update from the Capitol.
2016 Legislative Session Preview
Thanks to fiscal restraint by House Republicans last year, there is a significant surplus available when the legislature reconvenes next month. With that money, I plan to support two key initiatives that will benefit Minnesotans in our community and across the state: middle-class tax relief and transportation.
First, with a surplus on the table for 2016, it's clear that state government collected too much from hard-working taxpayers, and I want to see that returned to you.
Last session, House Republicans passed a $2 billion middle-class tax relief bill that benefits taxpayers across the board. Our legislation phases-out the income tax on social security and veteran pensions, helping aging adults living on a fixed income. It creates new personal and dependent exemptions, increases education deductions and provides new credits for college loan payments to help middle-class Minnesotans. Furthermore, it encourages entrepreneurial innovation and business start-ups in our state with additional research and development tax credits.
All of these important initiatives, plus many more, are in our tax legislation which is currently sitting in conference committee awaiting negotiations with the DFL-controlled Senate. I look forward to making tax relief a top legislative priority this session, and will be advocating for returning your hard-earned tax dollars to you.
In addition to tax relief, transportation legislation is also an important priority this session. As you may recall, last year, Governor Dayton refused to sign a transportation bill that did not include a gas tax increase. This harmful wholesale gas tax increase would have cost families hundreds of dollars more per year and was a non-starter for Republican legislators in the House. Thankfully, the governor has now backed off his plan which would have raised more than $9 billion in new taxes, making way for a road and bridge improvement bill this session.
Like the House Republican tax legislation, we also have a comprehensive 10-year, $7 billion transportation bill sitting in conference committee waiting to be acted upon. The Road and Bridge Act provides a long-term investment in transportation improvements without a harmful gas tax increase. It's a common-sense solution that will help fix 15,000 lane miles and 320 bridges statewide. What's more, investing in transportation is necessary in order to complete the I-94 expansion between St. Michael and Albertville, a critical project for commuters and commerce in our part of the state, and an issue I have been working on for several years.
Lastly, beyond transportation and middle-class tax relief, there is a third priority that I will be spearheading this session—ending unethical research using aborted fetal tissue at the University of Minnesota. In recent months, it has come to light that the university purchases aborted fetal tissue, something that is immoral for any institution, in my opinion, but especially one funded with taxpayer dollars. There are currently a few proposals in the works to end this research, and I will keep you updated on the issue when legislation is officially introduced.
Finally, I want to hear from people in our community about their priorities for state government. Please do not hesitate to contact me if you have ideas or input on legislation. It is an honor to serve you in the Minnesota House!
Participate in Grassroots Democracy March 1st
Minnesotans have an exciting opportunity to participate in grassroots democracy when precinct caucuses happen on Tuesday, March 1st at 7:00 PM. Precinct caucuses are an important step on the way to the general elections this fall, and by taking part, you can make sure your voice is heard!
For those who are new to the precinct caucus process, it is the first step to nominate candidates who will be on the ballot in November, such as state representative and state senator. You will also help elect precinct officers, form your political party's platform and have the opportunity to support your favorite presidential candidate. To participate, you must be eligible to vote in the November general election, and must generally agree with the principles of the political party hosting the caucus in which you participate.
To find the location of your precinct caucus, be sure to visit the Minnesota Secretary of State's voter website at www.mnvotes.org and use the caucus finder link. The site also gives more in depth background on the caucus participation process for newcomers, as well as links you to the DFL, GOP and minor political party websites in Minnesota.
So join your neighbors on Tuesday, March 1st at 7:00 PM and help be part of grassroots democracy in action!
If you need assistance an issue pertaining to state government, my office is available to you. You can e-mail at Rep.Marion.ONeill@House.MN or call my office at 651-296-5063. You can also write a letter to me. My office address at the Capitol is 549 State Office Building, 100 Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd, St. Paul, MN 55155.