BEMIDJI -- With just under a month before the Minnesota Legislature convenes, Senate Republicans are laying the blueprint for this session, with tax relief in mind.
On Tuesday, Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka, R-Nisswa, joined by District 5 Sen. Justin Eichorn, R-Grand Rapids, visited Bemidji to discuss the 2020 agenda. In a meeting with the Pioneer, Gazelka said there were two main issues the GOP is highlighting when it comes to taxes.
"The first one is completely exempting Social Security income for seniors. We want to totally eliminate that," Gazelka said. "The second one is related to when farmers and small business owners buy new property and deduct it. The federal government recently changed the laws to deduct more, and we're looking to be lined up in the same way."
The 2020 session is also a bonding year, and Gazelka said it will likely be the biggest debate of the session.
"Our forecast says without having to spend additional money on debt service, we could bond for $755 million," Gazelka said. "The last two bonding bills were between that and $1 billion. We're suggesting the bonding bill should be in that range."
Specifically, Gazelka said the Senate GOP Caucus will focus on roads and bridges, higher education projects and water infrastructure needs.
The latter is especially important to Bemidji, as the city is looking to build a new plant estimated at $16.3 million to treat perfluorocarbons, or PFCs. The chemicals have been found near the city's water wells, by the Bemidji Regional Airport, and to meet standards set by the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency, the city's plan is a treatment facility.
"I'd say that fairs well," Eichorn said. "I think Bemidji's project will rank pretty high and it's something that I certainly will be fighting for."
Democratic Gov. Tim Walz has unveiled his bonding bill proposals in a series of press conferences the past week.
A third goal for the caucus in 2020 will be legislation to eliminate waste and fraud at the state Department of Health and Human Services. Gazelka said the caucus is hoping Gov. Tim Walz assists on that front this session.
The Legislature will convene on Tuesday, Feb. 11.