Column: Tax relief, transportation funding headline legislative accomplishments
Tony Jurgens represents District 54B in the Minnesota House of Representatives.
As the 2017 session began, I had a small list of goals that I hoped we could accomplish before adjournment.
The must-do list included setting the state's budget, approving Real ID so Minnesotans could board an airplane in 2018, providing tax relief for Social Security recipients and reforming health care.
The would-be-nice-to-do list included tax relief for the middle class and a long-term road and bridge investment without raising anyone's taxes.
The good news is all of the above happened, and not only did we work out compromises with Gov. Mark Dayton on these proposals but many of them were approved in the House and Senate with bipartisan support.
Our $650 million middle-class tax relief proposal is the largest of its kind in 20 years. It includes Social Security tax relief for senior citizens, a first-in-the-nation tax credit for college student loan payments, property tax relief for every small business owner as well as farmers facing school bond referendums, and improved dependent care tax credits for working middle-class families.
The Legislature also made the largest investment in roads and bridges in a decade, putting billions of dollars over the next ten years towards the state's transportation needs without raising gas taxes or license tab fees.
Hastings and South Washington County Schools will benefit from an agreement that will increase the education funding formula by two percent over each of the next two years, allowing more money to be spent in the classroom. And we even approved a capital investment proposal that helps fund needed construction project across Minnesota, which was important since a plan was not approved last session.
Let's not forget the health insurance reform proposals we approved earlier in the year. They included premium relief to eligible subscribers; ensured continuity of care for people who were receiving treatment from a physician but lost that ability when they were forced to switch insurance plans; allowed for-profit HMO's to operate in Minnesota, provided stop-loss measures to help small businesses, and addressed reinsurance - which stabilizes premiums by mitigating the impact of the sickest individuals on the individual health insurance market.
In addition, we were able to pass legislation that allowed for alcohol to be legally sold in liquor stores on Sunday. And on a personal note, I was pleased to have helped find a solution for Hastings' Highway 316 speed limit issue through compromise with the transportation department.
Combine all of these together, and in my opinion we have a pretty successful 2017 session. At times it took a great deal of effort to finish the job, but I believe the end product was worth the wait.
Though session has ended, I want to remind residents that they can continue to contact me at any time. I can always be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 651-296-3135.
Thank you for giving me the privilege of serving your interests in the Minnesota House. I look forward to hearing from you in the weeks and months ahead.