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LETTER TO THE EDITOR: Session’s focus will include tax conformity, bonding

The 2018 Minnesota legislative session is beginning as we work to build upon the wave of momentum created by last year’s historic achievements related to tax relief and transportation funding.

As a refresher, results from 2017 included the largest tax relief for Minnesotans in nearly two decades: $650 million in relief over the current biennium and $790 million in 2020-2021.

We also made the largest investment in roads and bridges in state history, providing billions over the next decade for transportation without increasing the gas tax or tab fees. That includes an influx of more than $300 million for roads over two years. Bemidji alone is receiving more than $212,000 in new local street aid over the next four years.

I would be remiss in not mentioning the new K-12 education has more than $1.3 billion in increased funding (2 percent more each of the next two years as requested by our schools). Bemidji gets approximately $2.7 million in new funding this biennium.

With the state budget in place through June of 2019, our focus this session will be on other issues such as federal tax conformity and bonding.

Tax conformity is something we must address due to bring our state in line with the major federal tax changes. We need to develop a plan that is good for Minnesota taxpayers.

On bonding, the Legislature passed a nearly $1 billion capital investment bill last year. That package was geographically balanced, with a heavy focus on infrastructure and transportation needs. Gov. Mark Dayton proposes a $1.5 billion bonding package this year, much larger than what the Legislature is likely to propose.

Another issue likely to make headlines is the Minnesota Licensing and Registration system for vehicles. The rollout of this new system has been extremely bumpy. Minnesota taxpayers have paid nearly $100 million for a broken system and now the state is asking for another $43 million. Minnesotans deserve a system that works and we are exploring every option to fix this problem.

Personally, I will continue working on number of bills I have authored, such as the proposed Bemidji veterans home, the Hagg-Sauer Hall overhaul at BSU, legislation to curb veterans’ pension benefits scammers, and a plan to deliver chemical health treatment so help gets to the people who need it.

Matt Bliss, Pennington, serves District 5A in the Minnesota House of Representatives.