It's been another busy week at the Capitol as the House began debating budget omnibus bills on the floor. Here is an update on what we've passed so far and how it will positively impact Minnesota families and hardworking taxpayers.
Transportation Omnibus Bill
Last Tuesday, April 21, the first omnibus bill debated and passed on the House Floor was the Transportation Omnibus Bill which includes the Republican Road and Bridge Act. In total, the plan will invest $7 billion into our transportation infrastructure over the next decade without a gas tax increase.
All together, the Road and Bridge Act will repair or replace 15,000 lane miles and 320 bridges throughout the state. Included in the House Republican funding plan is:
$644 million per year for state and local roads and bridges
$357 million per year for state highways
$254 million per year for counties/cities/townships
$33 million per year for cities with fewer than 5,000 people
$160 million for Greater Minnesota transit
Our plan not only prioritizes our roads and bridges, but hardworking taxpayers as well.
Jobs and Energy Omnibus Bill
Wednesday of last week, the House passed its Jobs and Energy Omnibus Bill which will provide cheaper and cleaner energy for Minnesota families.
One of the top priorities in the bill is transforming our state's energy policy, and this is done through a number of initiatives. For instance, incentives to convert our diesel fleet to natural gas benefits the environment and also helps our transit lines and school districts save money. Additionally, the bill makes reforms to the Renewable Energy Standard, allowing the state to count hydroelectric and energy storage toward renewable energy goals. Third, it expands access and increases the affordability of propane in Greater Minnesota by providing incentives to companies which extend natural gas lines in rural areas and tax credits to people who purchase their propane supplies in bulk during the summer, instead of winter when prices tend to rise dramatically.
In addition to energy reform, there is also workforce development expansion that helps close the skills-gap, particularly in Greater Minnesota. Legislation I authored added to the omnibus bill funds the continuing development of the on-the-job training ("PIPELINE") competency standards for fifteen of the highest need occupations within the fields of manufacturing, agriculture, health care services and information technology, helping to eventually train and place much-needed workers in these vacant job positions across the state.
I am pleased the Jobs and Energy Omnibus bill passed the House because it's meeting Minnesota's energy and workforce needs.
Last week, Republicans unveiled their Tax Omnibus Bill which will provide $2 billion in tax relief to middle class families, veterans, college students, aging adults and job creators.
Some highlights in the bill include:
$35 million to expand the dependent care tax credit, helping cover daycare costs
$20.5 million to repeal a tax on digital products, offering consumers relief
$538.6 million for a new state version of the personal or dependent exemption
$47 million for an increased K-12 education deduction and $20.3 million for pre-kindergarten education deductions
$130.6 million in tax relief for a new tax credit on student loans
$40 million to allow deductions for contributions into the Minnesota College Savings Plan
$236.7 million to phase-out the tax on social security
$51.6 million to give income tax exemptions to veterans receiving military pay or pensions
$453.3 million to phase-out the statewide general property tax, helping to lower consumer costs and increase employee wages
Millions for research and development tax credits to spur job growth and entrepreneurial innovation
Minnesota is a high tax state, and Republicans believe we can be responsible in our budgeting, prioritizing what's important like education, transportation and caring for our seniors while also returning more money back to the hardworking taxpayer.
What's more, we know how important it is to save. That's why unlike Governor Dayton's budget, the Republican budget also places $150 million more into the budget reserves, adding to the current $1.344 billion we have in our state's reserves and Cash Flow Account.
Education Omnibus Bill
On Saturday, April 25, the House passed its student-focused Education Omnibus Bill. Included in the bill is an overall biennial per pupil increase of $178 statewide, breaking down to $166 per pupil for the seven-county metro, $193 per pupil for Greater Minnesota, $175 per pupil for charter schools and $168 per pupil for Minneapolis and St. Paul.
Increasing and equalizing funding for our school districts is particularly important when the Buffalo School District receives $8415 per pupil annually and the Monticello School District receives $8123 per pupil annually compared to around $14,500 for Minneapolis.
In addition to increasing per pupil funding, the Education Omnibus Bill prioritizes our littlest learners by placing millions in additional money for early childhood learning scholarships and school readiness aid. What's more, the bill empowers teachers, students and schools by reducing student testing, reforming the seniority-only policy for teacher retention, streamlining and clarifying the out-of-state teacher licensure process, and by allowing districts to tap community experts for vocational, technical and career education programs.
As a parent and legislator, I strongly believe every child deserves a world-class education and the opportunity for academic success. That's why I'm pleased our research-based, reform-driven education legislation is moving forward this session.
As always, please feel free to contact me about any state legislative issue. 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.