GUEST COLUMN: MIDDLE CLASS MINNESOTANS PRIORITIZED IN TAX RELIEF PROPOSAL
On May 22, the Minnesota House of Representatives finished its work and adjourned for the year. One of the most important tasks we had was finding ways to allocate a $900 million budget surplus. I’m pleased to report that both the House and Senate agreed to send a good portion of that money back to those who created the surplus in the first place.
With strong bipartisan support, lawmakers approved a historic tax relief proposal which will provide more than $800 million in tax relief over the next three years. This legislation recognizes that hardworking Minnesotans are paying too much to state government, and benefits people in most age brackets.
Among the winners: parents through the expansion of the working family tax credit and the childcare tax credit; Main Street business owners with the repeal of the commercial-industrial property tax off their first $100,000 of property value - which is expected to save the average business owner roughly $1,000 a year; farmers with some property tax relief from school bond levies; college graduates with student loan tax credit; and veterans with an income tax exemption for their military pensions.
While the tax relief proposal was the top highlight of 2016, one of the lowlights has to be the inability of the Minnesota Senate to approve a transportation funding proposal.
On the final day of session, the House and Senate also agreed to a capital investment/transportation plan that would have dedicated nearly $700 million to our road and bridge needs. The House adjourned after approving the plan, while Senate Democrats chose to break their promise because the proposal did not include money for another expensive train in Minneapolis.
Senate Democrats later admitted they killed the transportation proposal because it didn’t include funding for Southwest Light Rail.
Now the ball is in Governor Dayton’s court, as he is deciding whether or not to call a special session so lawmakers can approve bonding and transportation funding legislation. Stay tuned.
There’s no doubt the road and bridge funding debate ended in disappointment. But I went into the 2016 session hoping we’d use our surplus to ease the tax burdens on Minnesotans, and if any of it was leftover, to spend it on one-time projects. This is exactly what we attempted to do.
Also remember the things we stopped even though Democrats controlled two-thirds of state government: a 16-cent per gallon gas tax increase; the forced unionization of daycare providers; allowing the DNR to exceed its authority in our new buffer agreement by mapping private ditches; and spending billions of dollars on new, and unnecessary, light rail lines in the Twin Cities.
Every legislative session has highs and lows, but I believe if Governor Dayton signs our tax relief legislation into law, this session will be remembered as the year lawmakers prioritized the middle class in Greater Minnesota.