Viewpoint: Session should benefit SMART Center, Hastings Veterans Home
By Tony Jurgens, Minnesota House District 54B representative
The 2018 legislative session has come to a close, and while the final days were hectic, we did approve a number of common sense provisions and sent them to Gove. Mark Dayton for his approval.
Locally, both legislative bodies approved a bill that ensures public transparency and guardrails for the $850 million 3M settlement. The goal is to be sure the funds are used only in the east metro to keep our drinking water clean.
Additionally, the legislation includes a provision I authored relating to testing private wells in the east metro. Under the plan, the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency must develop a webpage that includes the process for public and private well perfluorochemicals or PFC sampling in the east metro area. The webpage will include an interactive map that allows people to view locations of well advisories and areas projected to be sampled for PFCs, and contact information for the MPCA and Department of Health to answer questions on the sampling of private wells. Results must also be reported to impacted communities and the Legislature.
I've been working with the MPCA on the well-testing issue and am pleased we found an acceptable compromise. Transparency throughout this process is not only important to me but those who are concerned about the safety of their drinking water, and I truly believe this is a positive step forward.
In the area of taxes, we approved what would be the first income tax rate cut for Minnesotans in nearly two decades by reducing the first and second tier income tax rates. In total, the bill cuts taxes for 2.2 million Minnesotans, and 99.8 percent of Minnesotans — in other words, almost all of you — would see tax reductions or be held harmless by tax changes made at the federal level.
In K-12 education, we agreed to make available up to $225 million in funding for schools across Minnesota. We also approved approximately $28 million in school safety funding that gives schools resources and flexibility to make physical safety improvements and boost efforts for student mental health. Combined with bonding dollars, House Republicans have proposed more than $50 million in this area.
Transportation infrastructure also received another funding infusion. You'll recall last year the Legislature made the largest investment in roads and bridges in a decade, putting billions of dollars over the next 10 years toward the state's transportation needs without raising gas taxes or license tab fees.
In an effort to combat the opioid epidemic, we instituted a number of reforms that we hope will help those fighting addiction, approved several provisions that address elder abuse and will better protect our elderly and vulnerable adults, and passed a pension reform proposal for our state employees.
We approved a capital investment plan that will fund needed construction projects across Minnesota. Included in the plan was funding for
• Health and Emergency Response Occupations or HERO Center proposal in Washington County,
• Dakota County SMART Center,
• asset preservation funding for Veterans Affairs, some of which would help local residents at the Hastings Veterans Home.
As with any negotiation, each side has to give something to get something. For instance, before we sent him our supplemental budget legislation, the governor found more than 100 items he objected to in the bills. It was important for us to show him we were acting in good faith, which is why leadership agreed to remove or modify 60 percent of those provisions. It's also important to note these bill also contained a number of major priorities the governor insisted we include.
As I write this, I remain optimistic that the governor will sign the legislation. These bills build off of many of last session's successes—including middle-class tax relief and increased transportation funding. In most cases they were approved in a bipartisan fashion, which is usually a telling sign that the proposals being passed are good ones.
Though session has ended, I am always available to respond to your thoughts and concerns. Please feel free to contact me by email at email@example.com or contact my office at 651-296-3135 to share your thoughts, concerns, and ideas. I look forward to hearing from you.