Session a win for northwest Minn.
By Rep. Deb Kiel and Rep. Dan Fabian The dust has now settled on Minnesota's 2017 legislative session, and the bipartisan budget signed into law earlier this month is a win for folks in northwest Minnesota. As we worked to find compromise in a di...
By Rep. Deb Kiel
and Rep. Dan Fabian
The dust has now settled on Minnesota's 2017 legislative session, and the bipartisan budget signed into law earlier this month is a win for folks in northwest Minnesota.
As we worked to find compromise in a divided government, Republicans remained steadfast that we return money to hardworking taxpayers through meaningful, middle-class tax relief. The result was a substantial $650 million tax relief bill.
Now, seniors living on a fixed income will see relief, with 284,000 seniors seeing a reduction on the state income tax they pay on Social Security, and 72,000 of those folks no longer paying any income tax on those benefits at all. There is also property tax relief for farmers and Main Street businesses, help for families with children in daycare and those saving for future higher education expenses, and a first-in-the-nation credit for college graduates paying back student loans.
From Roseau to Rochester, there is something for just about everyone in the tax bill, and middle-class Minnesotans will be able to keep more of their hard-earned money.
Next, transportation was another top priority for folks in our state, and we successfully made the largest investment in road and bridge infrastructure in Minnesota's history without a harmful gas tax increase or increase in license tab fees. Our plan includes a more than $300 million influx of road and bridge funding over the next two years, along with an additional $16 million for projects in communities with fewer than 5,000 residents. What's more, Republicans ensured state dollars will not fund ongoing operations for the expensive Southwest Light Rail boondoggle in the metro.
For northwest Minnesota, there were a number of initiatives signed into law that will positively benefit local communities in our area. Championing jobs and a boost to our local economy, we passed provisions that will help Digi-Key expand and create up to 1,000 new jobs in our area. A bonding bill passed also includes funding for critical local infrastructure projects including lab renovations at Northland Community and Technical College in East Grand Forks, the sewer interconnect between East Grand Forks and Grand Forks, and the solid waste management system for Polk County.
On the environment and natural resources front, we improved our state's regulatory permitting process as we worked to ensure Minnesota continues to be a top destination for hunting, fishing and outdoor recreation. What's more, working with farm groups and counties, we successfully made changes to the buffer law that gives landowners more flexibility and creates a waiver process to give more time for compliance.
Finally, for our kids, we made significant investments in our students and schools, as well as a number of bold reforms to improve student learning, address Greater Minnesota's critical teacher shortage, and ensure we can hire and keep the best educators in our classrooms. We increased education funding by $1.35 billion over the current biennium, putting more money in every classroom, overhauled our broken teacher licensure system and continued our dedication to a nation-leading mixed-delivery system of quality early learning options that put parents in the driver's seat of their child's education.
From key reforms at the beginning of this year to address health care affordability and accessibility for those impacted by Obamacare to funding our shared priorities including tax relief, transportation and education, we think the 2017 legislative session is one that should be remembered as a win for folks in northwest Minnesota.
State Rep. Deb Kiel, R-Crookston, serves District 1B and Rep. Dan Fabian, R-Roseau, serves District 1A.