Column: Leaders first need to agree what's in the checkbook
The people living in our community, and all across the state, expect the Legislature to get its work done in the time allotted; the Minnesota House and Senate intend to do that.
Over the past two weeks, members of the House and Senate have been working together in conference committees to compromise on the discrepancies between each budget proposal. Unfortunately, initial discussions with the governor have not proved to be productive, so we are now in the process of sending each budget bill to the governor's desk.
Normally, the process works more effectively if joint budget targets are agreed upon first — by the House, Senate and governor. That way, the legislature can vote on bills that support a balanced state budget and the governor can consider his support or suggest compromise.
The path we have been forced to take is like establishing a budget without having agreement on what is in the checkbook. The governor appears to be trying to "run out the clock" on the session. This will only lead to last-minute deals and/or special sessions that you — the taxpayers — have clearly stated your opposition to. I share your frustrations with this process.
Please know that every budget bill that has passed the House and Senate includes provisions supported by the governor, so I am hopeful for either his signature or a willingness to finally sit down to negotiate a compromise on the entire budget proposal presented by the Legislature that benefits all Minnesotans.
The Legislature's budget priorities are as follows:
• To provide $1.1 billion of tax relief to farmers (reducing the burden they pay for school bond referendums); seniors (reducing their taxable amount of Social Security income); and students (providing student loan tax credits and college savings incentives). Tax relief for middle class Minnesotans — not tax relief "for the rich" as others have stated.
• To invest more than $1 billion in new expenditures to our schools.
• To pass an immediate $2 billion investment and a $5 billion long-term transportation plan that repairs and improves our crumbling transportation infrastructure. The bill also includes a special fund of $25 million for 97 bridge projects recommended by Minnesota Department of Transportation. Our plan would be funded through current taxes on auto parts, auto rentals, and motor vehicle lease sales, as well as through bonding money.
I will continue to advocate for a budget that supports the needs of our district and balances tax relief and investments in transportation and education.