Guest Opinion: End of legislative session marks two productive years at State Capitol
The 2018 legislative session adjourned a little over a month ago, marking the end of one of the most productive two years at the Legislature in recent memory. This biennium's work resulted in the largest tax cut in nearly two decades, the largest investment in roads and bridges in state history without a gas tax increase, major funding boosts for education, and reforms to lower health care costs and increase health care choices for Minnesota families.
Thanks to these initiatives, Minnesota's economy is strong and unemployment is at its lowest levels in years. In addition to a strengthened economy, our reforms to bring down the cost of health care are working.
In fact, after years of double digit rate increases, the 2018 health care individual market rates were 20 percent less than the previous year. Furthermore, 2019 rates are projected to decrease an additional 7-12 percent according to the Minnesota Department of Commerce.
This is all good news and proof positive that policies championed by House Republicans, and signed into law by Governor Dayton, are delivering results for Minnesota families.
Part of my job as your representative is to share the facts despite sometimes an unintentionally negative tone. With that said, I am disappointed to report that the 2018 legislative session finished on a sour note when Governor Dayton vetoed the supplemental finance bill and a tax conformity bill. His actions in the final week of session blocked the first income tax rate reduction in 20 years, funding to help deputy registrars hurt by the MNLARS mess, funding to avert a 7 percent cut for disability services, school safety initiatives to protect children, and more.
A month removed from his vetoes, it remains difficult to understand why Governor Dayton chose to veto these important pieces of legislation.
During negotiations with the administration, the legislature graciously addressed nearly 70 percent of the specific concerns the governor cited with the bills we sent him. Additionally, we included flexibility measures for school districts that would have made available up to $225 million to address the "emergency" school funding crisis that Governor Dayton requested in the final weeks of session. The legislature did its work, on time, and met the governor more than halfway on his key priorities and concerns.
Yet again, Governor Dayton vetoed this legislation. These bills represented a great deal of compromise from the House and Senate in an effort to do what is right for Minnesotans and reach agreement with the governor.
Thankfully, not all was lost and Governor Dayton did sign a bonding bill into law. This bill was geographically balanced and provided general obligation bonds to fund construction and critical infrastructure maintenance and preservation throughout the state.
Included in the bill was $4.143 million to renovate the National Guard's Brainerd Readiness Center, known locally as the Brainerd Armory.
A large component of the bill was funding for the Public Facilities Authority (PFA), which provides financing and technical assistance to help small communities build water treatment facilities. I was proud to chief author a provision in the bill that included $59 million funded through the Legislative-Citizen Commission on Minnesota Resources (LCCMR) to the PFA.
My provision was considered "controversial" by some environmental groups because it used money from the LCCMR account to fund the bond for this additional PFA support. Considering part of the LCCMR's mission is to improve and conserve water for Minnesotans and future generations, I welcomed and applauded the Governor's signature.
As we move into the summer and fall, I look forward to being in the district and hearing from all of you as I do everything I can to make sure that your voice is well represented at the Capitol. It's truly an honor to represent our communities in St. Paul and I look forward to further efforts to ensure that Minnesota and the Brainerd Lakes Area continue to be a great place to live, work, and raise a family.
As always, I urge you to reach out and contact me if you have any questions related to state government by phone at 651-296-4333 or by email at email@example.com.
Heintzeman, R-Nisswa, represents District 10A in the Minnesota House of Representatives