Poppe: Heating bill help capped a busy Week 1

Published 8:20 am Thursday, March 6, 2014

On Friday, state lawmakers wrapped up a productive first week back at our state capitol for the 2014 legislative session.

We took swift action on day one by unanimously approving $20 million in additional financial assistance for low-income Minnesotans struggling to heat their homes in the midst of the ongoing propane crisis. I’m pleased both DFLers and Republicans promptly passed legislation to support families hit hardest by an alarming spike in heating bills.

The first week of the session ended on a positive note when Minnesota Management and Budget released an updated budget forecast showing that our state has an anticipated surplus of more than $1.2 billion in the current biennium and a $2.6 billion projected surplus in the next biennium. That’s a major turnaround from one year ago when we had a $627 million deficit and owed our schools more than $800 million.

Email newsletter signup

In addition, a new report from the non-partisan House Research Department shows that property taxes for Minnesota homeowners are expected to drop by more than $160 million in 2014 thanks in large part to investments the Legislature made in direct property tax relief. This comes as welcome news after a decade of steep property tax hikes.

The DFL-led Legislature eliminated our deficit, repaid the school shift in full, and paid for new investments in priorities like education and property tax relief largely by raising income taxes on the wealthiest 2 percent of Minnesotans and by closing corporate tax loopholes. We are now on sound fiscal footing for the first time in years.

Minnesota’s economy is growing and more people are going back to work. We can focus our attention on those individuals, families, and businesses who are not sharing in our recovery as much as they should be. Being responsible by spending some of our surplus dollars on strategic investments like middle class tax cuts is a top priority moving forward.

Last week, the House Taxes Committee passed a $500 million tax cut package. The bill cuts taxes for middle class Minnesotans by enacting federal tax conformity, a move that would simplify our state tax code and get rid of burdens like the “marriage penalty.”

According to the nonpartisan House Research Department, eliminating the marriage penalty alone would save 650,000 families an average of $120 every year.

The House tax cut package also repeals three new business-to-business taxes, including a new tax on farm equipment repairs. Our surplus means we can pay for these tax cuts while maintaining a structurally balanced budget into the future — something that is key if we want to continue building on our progress in the years ahead.

Even-year Legislative sessions traditionally focus on capital investment legislation, more commonly known as “bonding bills.” This year will be no different. We can create good jobs and spur economic development by passing a strong bipartisan bonding bill that repairs and improves state assets like roads, bridges, and buildings at our colleges and universities. Our community continues to benefit from a recent bonding investment in The Hormel Institute and its world-renowned cancer prevention research.

As the 2014 session continues, please contact me with your questions, concerns, or feedback. You can reach me by phone at 651-296-4193, by email at rep.jeanne.poppe@house.mn, or by postal mail at 487 State Office Building, 100 Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd., St. Paul, MN 55155.