We have entered the final 3 weeks of the legislative session and we spent most of our time this week on the House floor, approving a number of supplemental omnibus finance bills. I am proud of the work we have put into these bills that ensure Minnesota continues to be a great place to live, work, and raise a family.
On Monday, the House approved its tax conformity plan. This bill not only simplifies and conforms our state tax code to changes made at the federal level it lowers taxes for 2.1 million Minnesotans.
Passed on an overwhelmingly bipartisan vote of 90-38, this tax plan provides the first income tax rate reduction in nearly 20 years with the second tier seeing its rate reduced from 7.05% to 6.75% by tax year 2020.
Tuesday saw the passage of a transportation package that makes serious investments in our roads and bridges without raising the gas tax. Our bill utilizes surplus funds leveraged with trunk highway bonds to spend $385 million on transportation needs this year alone.
Here are some highlights from the bill:
$250 million for highways statewide through Trunk Highway bonds
$145 million in Trunk Highway bonds and $10 million in cash for Corridors of Commerce program projects
$25 million for county roads, $6.6 million for city roads, $2 million for township roads
$7 million for Small Cities Assistance Program for cities under 5,000
$75 million for trunk highway rail grade separation projects
$9 million to deputy registrars for MNLARS reimbursement aid
We also approved a health and human services omnibus bill that seeks to increase affordability and access to health care. The bill address other important issues like the opioid epidemic, elder abuse, and reducing fraud, waste, and abuse of public health dollars.
This year’s public safety bill reaffirms our commitment to helping keep Minnesotans safe. This legislation protects law enforcement officers and the communities they serve, keeps Minnesota’s roads safe, cracks down on dangerous sex offenders, and devotes resources to protecting our children.
One specific provision from this bill would increase the criminal penalties for protesters who illegally obstruct highways, airport access, or transit systems.
Other omnibus bills we passed this week included jobs and energy affordability, state government finance, agriculture, environment, and legacy.
Here is a brief summary of each bill:
The jobs and energy affordability bill provides supplemental appropriations for a number of state agencies in the economic development, energy, and housing areas. It also includes a number of provisions to promote clean and renewable energy, spur business development, and make housing more accessible and affordable for Minnesotans
The state government finance bill includes funding to construct three new veterans’ homes in Bemidji, Montevideo, and Preston
Our agriculture bill includes $35 million in bonding revenue for farmer loans through the Rural Finance Authority, $217,000 for additional mental health counseling specifically tailored to farm families and other rural professionals, and requires nitrogen fertilizer rules proposed by the Department of Agriculture to have legislative approval
The environment bill combats Chronic Wasting Disease and strengthens our state’s commitment to safety and outdoor recreation, and checks bureaucratic overreach by state agencies
Our legacy bill invests in clean water and improved habitat that can be enjoyed by generations of Minnesotans to come.
Conference committees will soon be opened now that our omnibus bills have received initial approval. The Senate, House, and governor will negotiate the final details of these bills in hopes of coming to agreements that everyone can agree to and see signed into law.
Stay tuned for more updates as we get closer to the conclusion of this year’s legislative session.
Local pastor, Andy Smith, served as a guest chaplain this week at the House
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