Disagreements didn’t stop meaningful bills

Published 8:58 am Monday, June 6, 2016

Peggy Bennett

State Representative, District 27A

The 2016 session showed that, despite disagreements, we can still pass bills to help our state. From bringing high-speed internet to Greater Minnesota, to providing tax relief for veterans, countless Minnesotans will derive benefit from what we’ve already passed into law.

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Earlier this week, Governor Dayton signed our supplemental budget bill. The language included a $35 million investment for broadband infrastructure—the largest amount in state history. When combined with federal funding, Minnesota is expected to see nearly $120 million in funding for broadband expansion in 2017 alone.

Many unserved and underserved areas in Greater Minnesota need this funding to keep pace with the Twin Cities. Our students, small businesses, and local governments require high-speed access to stay connected with the rest of the world, and this funding will go a long way to closing this technological divide. I’m proud to vote for this bill, and help bring internet to areas in need.

Our area is home to a strong agriculture tradition, and I was thrilled to see a number of important provisions to help farmers. Part of the supplemental budget bill goes to help keep farmers safe with a voluntary rollover protection program, while another part prevents and tracks emerging diseases in farm animals. House Republicans also fought for language to clarify a bill the state was using to try and expand water buffers in private ditches. The House and Senate also passed a bipartisan tax relief bill — yet to be signed by the governor — to give farmers much-needed property tax relief.

After taking part in a number of Memorial Day ceremonies last week, I was reminded of the sacrifice our men and women in the military make for our country. To help veterans who retire in our state, we included a historic tax cut for veterans, exempting all military retirement benefits from state taxes. This will mean more money in the pockets of the more than 18,000 retired veterans currently living in Minnesota. This is one of my favorite provisions this year, and has been a long time in coming for Minnesota veterans. I’m proud to vote for this bill to help our retired heroes.

Legislative leaders still have to meet with the governor to decide if we’ll have a special session. Along with the strong provisions we already passed, I’m hopeful we can come to an agreement on our tax relief, transportation, and bonding bills, which passed the House and Senate with wide bipartisan support. These bills provided tax relief for middle-class families, teachers, recent college graduates, small business owners, and more, along with funding needed transportation projects. If we can provide tax relief and road and bridge funding — on top of what we already accomplished — all Minnesotans will benefit.