Today Senate Republicans unveiled their 2020 legislative agenda at a press conference at the capitol in St. Paul. “Our Vision 2020 agenda will build on the successes of the 2019 session and Republicans will continue to work with Democrats in the House and Governor Walz to get things done, even as we fight hard for our principles,” said Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka (R-Nisswa).
After the 2018 election, the Minnesota legislature was the only divided legislature in the country. Ending the 2019 session with a fully-funded state budget and without a prolonged special session was only possible with a bipartisan compromise. “Republican policies to combine tax relief with sensible investments have been working well for the state,” Gazelka continued. “We’ll use our successes from the past to make sure Minnesota has a successful future. It starts with a bonding bill that is affordable and prioritizes the state’s most important needs, focusing on roads and bridges. We will exercise our oversight over state agencies in their budget requests and look for even more tax relief.”
“We’ve lowered taxes for the middle class, seniors, and provided tax breaks to college students and small businesses- it has proven to be good for this state,” said Senate Tax Chair Roger Chamberlain (R-Lino Lakes). “Moving forward with a fully-funded government and a large surplus should indicate to all of us that lowering the tax burden for farmers, families, small businesses, charities, and parents should be a priority again this year. We are taking too much from hard-working Minnesotans, and they deserve relief.”
Bonding, a supplemental budget, and tax relief aren’t the only priorities for the Senate. Lowering the cost of healthcare, public safety, transportation and energy, and education are all part of the Vision 2020 agenda. Republican healthcare initiatives since 2017 have stabilized the individual market, regulated the middlemen in drug pricing, and increased transparency in hospital billing.
“The healthcare market is changing to be more responsive to people’s needs,” said Senator Michelle Benson (R- Ham Lake), chair of the Senate Health and Human Services Committee. “Because of our work, Minnesotans currently enjoy the lowest health insurance premiums in the nation. In 2020, the Senate will look at further reducing drug costs with a drug reimportation program so patients can get cheaper Canadian drug prices at their local pharmacy – including insulin and other life-saving drugs. We will also provide the oversight and accountability measures essential to restore trust and integrity to the Department of Human Services.”
According to the Star Tribune, homicides in Minneapolis are up 32% since 2018. In that same time span, violent crime increased by 13%, with a 9% increase in shooting victims. Homicides in St. Paul are up 73% since 2018. “Crime isn’t just a metro-county or urban city problem. It affects our entire state when people don’t want to visit the Twin Cities, when they are fearful to go to a baseball or football game downtown, and it’s a problem we can’t ignore,” Senator Warren Limmer (R- Maple Grove) said. Limmer is chair of the Senate Judiciary and Public Safety Committee.The Vision 2020 agenda includes evaluating measures that take guns out of the hands of dangerous people.
Last week Senator Dave Senjem (R- Rochester), Chair of the Capital Investment Committee tasked with crafting the bonding bill said, “Bonding is, of course, the main priority for this session, and we will work to get a bill that invests in transportation and infrastructure that helps all Minnesotans.” The bonding bill requires a three-fifths majority vote to pass both the House and the Senate. The most recent budget forecast projects $755 million will be available for bonding this year, and the state has $1.33 billion available in surplus funds. The Vision 2020 agenda prioritizes transportation funding for roads and bridges in the bonding bill, building on the $600 million passed over the last two years to keep Minnesotans safe and reduce congestion—all without a gas tax.
The Vision 2020 agenda also includes the “Clean Energy First” proposal that will help Minnesota accomplish the transition to clean energy with careful planning for an all-of-the-above approach to clean energy. “‘Clean Energy First’ addresses our long-term energy needs in an affordable and reliable way by allowing technology and the economy to drive innovation in the energy sector,” said Senator David Osmek (R-Mound), chair of the Energy and Utilities Committee. “Mandates only drive up cost; we need to keep that in perspective as it relates to the cost of energy in Minnesota for all energy consumers.” The approach is more flexible and less costly with a diverse energy portfolio that includes renewables, large hydropower, innovative coal, and groundbreaking nuclear power technologies.
Following a history of annual funding increases focused on classrooms, and grants for school safety needs, the Vision 2020 agenda puts students and learning first. It addresses the state’s persistent achievement gap by using data to identify which early learning programs actually work the best and making them the top priorities.
The full Vision 2020 agenda also includes priorities for greater Minnesota jobs, clean water, support for farmers and veterans, and addressing the childcare and workforce needs for a growing economy. The 2020 session begins on February 11th.