The legislative session ended at midnight on Sunday. We are still in limbo on a bonding bill, which I will explain below. We did, however, pass a tax bill full of tax relief for middle-class families and individuals, and a supplemental budget proposal that included many reforms to improve circumstances for people of all ages and walks of life.
Veteran’s Tax Exemption
The reform I am the most excited about is the provision that makes all military retirement benefits tax-exempt. This measure was the result of many people working over the last two decades, and persistence in negotiations with the Senate. There are approximately 18,000 retired veterans who live in our state, and this bill will encourage them to stay in our communities and workforce once they retire from service. Minnesota is now the 46th state to exempt military retirement benefits. In my mind, this provision was not just a good thing to do, it was the right thing to do, and I am so happy that this measure finally passed this year.
Other Supplemental Budget and Tax Provisions
In additional to the veterans exemption, the supplemental budget and tax proposals included a historic investment in k-12 education, as well as extending the child tax credit and working family tax credit to make the costs of childcare more manageable for young families. A new pilot program will be started to help treat pregnant and postpartum women with substance abuse problems. Grants will be made available for the treatment and screening of pre- and postpartum mood and anxiety disorders, improving mental health for our new mothers.
Special education teacher will have a 25% reduction in required paperwork, allowing them to spend more time with their students. There are provisions opening up more housing options for seniors, and measures to improve their quality-of-life and care. For college graduates leaving school with student loans, you will receive a tax credit, as will families paying into a 529 plan to save for their kids’ college educations. Small business owners will see their first $100,000 of industrial/commercial property become tax-free. The Veterans Affairs Department will also receive a financial appropriation to study and asses un-met needs in the mental health of our veteran community.
The tax and supplemental budget bills passed both the House and Senate with bipartisan support, and are now waiting to be signed by Governor Dayton.
Bonding Bill Limbo
As many of you have probably heard, the bonding/transportation bill failed passage on Sunday evening. This was the result of a political maneuver by the Senate DFL majority, in which they tried to amend SouthWest Light Rail funding onto the proposal which had passed the House with strong support from both sides of the aisle. This bill contained nearly $700 million in road and bridge funding, as well as allocations for infrastructure projects across the state. The bill was sacrificed in an effort to back House Republicans into a corner on light rail funding, which we have been adamantly against as a bad investment for our state. There was an agreement between both bodies, and the Senate went back on it in the 11th hour.
At this time, I hope that Governor Dayton will call a special session in the near future, and pass the measure that the House and Senate both agreed to, without leveraging a deal for light rail or other provisions that were not agreed on in the regular session. If you have a moment, please call the Governor’s Office and ask that he call a special session as soon as possible, so we can get to work on Minnesota’s roads and bridges, and start building infrastructure around the state.
This Memorial Day, I am reminded of what this time of year signifies to so many people. The new life that comes with spring, kids getting ready to enjoy summer vacations, and the relief of finally being able to live outside as a Minnesotan. These are all new beginnings of sorts, and on Memorial Day, we not only celebrate and honor the sacrifice of our fallen soldiers, we breathe new life into their memories.
While we never forget our friends and loved ones who have paid the ultimate price for our nation, Memorial Day allows us to make a conscious effort to stop the busyness of our lives, pause, and remember. This remembering can be painful, because we are dealing with a profound loss, not only as individuals, but as a nation. But pausing to tell the stories of our lost loved ones, our brothers and sisters, our mothers and fathers, our grandmothers and grandfathers, brings honor to their sacrifice and creates memories for future generations. This book passage from Minnesota author and Vietnam War veteran, Tim O’Brien, articulates the importance of memory in loss:
“But in a story, which is a kind of dreaming, the dead sometimes smile and sit up and return to the world.”
-Tim O’Brien, The Things They Carried
That is what we do on Memorial Day; we bring the memories of our warriors back to life through our stories.
I wish you a relaxing Memorial Day weekend with family and friends, while we pause as a nation to mourn and honor the sacrifice of the soldiers who paid for our freedom.
As always, thank you for the privilege of being your representative. Please contact me with any questions or concerns, and I will be sure to keep you appraised of the special session situation.