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Commentary: Tax relief is a House priority in 2016 session

The 2016 legislative session begins on Tuesday and is expected to be one of the shortest in recent history due to ongoing renovations at the Capitol. Normally, the biggest highlight in even-year legislative sessions is the capital investment or "...

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The 2016 legislative session begins on Tuesday and is expected to be one of the shortest in recent history due to ongoing renovations at the Capitol. Normally, the biggest highlight in even-year legislative sessions is the capital investment or “bonding” bill.

However, this year is taking on a different look as a number of important issues are set to be discussed.

Earlier this month, we learned that the state’s projected budget surplus sits at $900 million. While news of a surplus certainly is not bad news, such a large surplus is an indication that state government is over-collecting from hard-working taxpayers.

Given this, I will be working with fellow lawmakers this year on tax relief that puts money back in the pockets of seniors, veterans, recent college graduates, and more.

Along with tax relief, the House is committed to a significant transportation plan that helps fix our aging road and bridge infrastructure. You may recall, last session the House passed an innovative transportation plan that would invest nearly $7 billion over the next 10 years into Minnesota’s roads and bridges without increasing the gas tax.

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Unfortunately, this plan did not become law due to the governor’s insistence on increasing the gas tax by a minimum of 16 cents a gallon. For folks in greater Minnesota, such a dramatic increase would be a huge burden for families who drive long distances to go to work or bring their children to daycare.

Estimates say that this new tax could cost families an extra $50 a month.

I just don’t think it makes sense to raise anyone’s taxes when the state has such a massive surplus. I also hope we don’t see some legislators holding up road and bridge funding over more controversial proposals. During this short session, I think it makes more sense to focus on passing a road and bridge plan that enjoys bipartisan support from the public and in St. Paul.

In addition to tax relief and transportation funding, broadband expansion will be among the biggest items addressed this year.

You have likely heard about or experienced firsthand the serious lack of Internet access in rural Minnesota.

In an effort to address this problem, I introduced legislation earlier this year that would make a substantial investment in the state’s Border to Border Broadband Grant Program - which funds broadband expansion to areas of Minnesota that are unserved or underserved.

What’s more, the federal government will be investing an additional $500 million over the next several years in Minnesota for rural broadband expansion.

Kandiyohi County is in real need of increased broadband accessibility from Sunburg to Lake Lillian .

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I will continue fighting for this until we see broadband expansion throughout the county.

Child care accessibility and affordability is another issue that I will be working on this coming session and look forward to collaborating with my colleagues to find solutions for families and providers in our communities.

In regards to this year’s capital investment bill, I would expect wastewater treatment and other infrastructure projects to dominate much of the bill’s substance.

For our area, I am looking forward to working hard for local projects, include the expansion of the Glacial Lakes bike trail from New London to Sibley. They will have a positive impact for Kandiyohi County and the state as a whole.

As you can see, this year’s legislative session will not be short on issues. While we have a big task ahead of us with the shortened session, I am eager to return to St. Paul to continue the work Minnesotans sent us to accomplish.

Rep. Dave Baker represents House District 17B.

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