Red Lake Nation News - Babaamaajimowinan (Telling of news in different places)

REP. HANCOCK PREVIEWS THE 2016 LEGISLATIVE SESSION

 


Minnesota's state lawmakers will soon return to the State Capitol, tasked with allocating a likely budget surplus and finding long-term answers relating to transportation and tax relief for hardworking Minnesotans.

As it stands today – and we'll know more once state economists release their February forecast – our projected budget surplus sits at just over $1 billion. So what should we do with this money? Very simply, I believe we should use it to ease the tax burdens on Minnesotans, and if any is leftover, spend it on one-time projects.

I oppose creating new government programs that will permanently increase our spending obligations in the future. Remember, as a result of last year's budget agreement, Minnesota's taxpayers will provide $42 billion over the next two years to pay for state government programs, meaning government is fully funded.

If we have $1.2 billion to allocate, in my opinion at least half of that should be used for tax relief. Things like assisting senior citizens by phasing out the tax on Social Security income, or prioritizing those who fought for our country by no longer subjecting military pay and pensions to the income tax. Another top area we should consider for tax relief is the phase out of the statewide business property tax, which is devastating Main Street business owners in Greater Minnesota as it costs them thousands of dollars every year.

After providing tax relief, I would prefer to utilize any remaining surplus on individual projects. Wastewater treatment facilities, transportation infrastructure like roads and bridges, and veterans homes. Depending on what is available in surplus funds, to me it doesn't make sense to continue increasing our debt through borrowing when we can make the project purchase directly.

Many of these one-time items are typically handled in a capital investment bill, and we will likely debate that legislation as well in 2016. Historically, we've been borrowing around $1 billion every two years to fund statewide construction projects, but since we approved $344 million last session for this purpose, I would favor capping this

year's proposal at roughly $650 million.

Should the legislature choose to pursue this path, my top priority is constructing veterans' homes in Bemidji and Montevideo. Lawmakers have played politics with veterans for far too long. By creating these facilities in the two areas of Minnesota identified with the greatest need, we can morally treat the veteran as we should and eliminate the political ramifications.

Long-term transportation needs will also receive significant discussion. You'll recall the Minnesota House approved a plan that would have provided $7 billion over ten years for statewide road and bridge needs without raising any taxes. It would use sales taxes already being paid on auto-related services and products, along with bonding and a small portion of our budget surplus in order to make the needed investment. The Senate approved a plan that would have raised gasoline prices by a minimum of 16-cents per gallon. Hopefully a legislative compromise can be reached before session ends, but for me a new tax on fuel is a non-starter.

If you have legislative questions or comments, you can contact me anytime at 651-296-4265 or by email at rep.dave.hancock@house.mn. It is a privilege to represent your interests in the Minnesota House, and I look forward to hearing from you soon.

 

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