In a previous column, I discussed the preliminary rates that were released by the Department of Commerce for the 2018 individual health insurance market. The reforms that were passed during the 2017 legislative session helped end a four-year run of double-digit premium increases (nearly 60 percent last year) and helped stabilize the market.
In this column I want to share an update on health insurance rates, tax benefits for the start of the school year, and a new program to promote high school apprenticeships. Health insurance One of the major concerns for residents in our region has been the rising cost of health insurance. I've written before about our legislative efforts to address this crisis and I want to update you on the initial impact we are seeing.
A common theme between the 2016 campaign and the 2017 legislative session is health insurance affordability. While Washington D.C. has had difficulty trying to enact reforms to our health insurance system, St. Paul has experienced some success. The Minnesota Premium Security Plan, which passed both the House and the Senate and has become law, is aimed at stabilizing premiums by lessening the impact of high-risk individuals on the individual health insurance market.
It has been a very productive first few months of the 2017 legislative session. With the news of an increased budget surplus, now totaling $1.65 billion, the speaker of the House and committee chairs have begun to craft the budget. In addition to continued work on health insurance reform, we are committed to supporting transportation needs and providing tax relief to hardworking families. While we work on the budget, we are also focused on policy reforms that help our students, families and businesses succeed.
My first two weeks at the Capitol have been exciting and productive. I want to thank you all again for electing me to serve you in St. Paul. It has been a great honor thus far.