Greetings from the District,
The 2019 legislative session is complete and it feels good to be back home doing the dishes, playing ball with the boys, and substituting a suit and tie at the Capitol for jeans and steel toes at the scrap yard. People often ask about how much time I spend at the Capitol and while we are in session. It’s a lot. It’s a huge sacrifice for Janel and the boys and definitely a team effort, but we do it to help make a difference. It’s a tremendous honor to serve the people of Fillmore, Houston, and Winona counties and I’m extremely thankful to my family for their support.
This past session was long and intense, but overall, very successful. As you probably know, the dynamic was quite a bit different this year. The Senate remains in Republican control, but Minnesotans elected a new governor, Tim Walz, and gave Democrats a majority in the House of Representatives. The result is one of only two split/divided state governments in the country.
Much of the session was a feeling out process. We spent a significant amount of time building relationships and getting to know each other, because that is the foundation of everything we accomplish. It’s one of the reasons I co-founded the Purple Caucus with former Senator Roger Reinert, a Democrat from Duluth. Strong relationships breed trust, and when we trust each other we can get a lot done.
This session I am proud to say we built on the successes of the 2017 and 2018 sessions. It’s easy to think of our state budget and our state economy in terms of what is happening right now, but it is important to look at the bigger picture. Minnesota’s success does not exist in a vacuum; the things we did over the past two years impacted the discussions of the most recent session.
Two years ago we worked with Gov. Dayton to deliver bipartisan victories for Minnesotans in every issue area:
- $1.3 billion more funding for our schools.
- $500 million in immediate funding for roads and bridges.
- Tuition freezes to keep higher education costs in check and funding for the state grant program so more young people could afford college.
- $650 million in tax relief for middle class families, senior citizens, farmers, and students, including my first-in-the-nation student loan tax credit.
- $1 billion for critical statewide infrastructure, including the Lanesboro Dam and Education Village at Winona State University.
- Emergency health care premium relief and reinsurance to hold health insurance premiums down.
- Finally passed Sunday Sales, so liquor stores have the choice to be open on Sundays.
- Passed a REAL ID fix, so Minnesotans won’t have to experience additional hassles when they fly.
Those successes put Minnesota’s economy in great shape. We entered the year with a $1 billion budget surplus, monthly revenue numbers have shown consistent improvement, and unemployment remains near an all-time low.
While it’s important to proceed with caution, our work over the past couple of years has put us in a position to responsibly invest in our shared priorities. I will share more about the details of each budget area in the coming weeks, but I wanted to provide you a high level overview of what we accomplished this year:
E-12 and Higher Education:
- 2% annual increases to the per pupil education formula.
- More funding to help school districts cover growing special education costs.
- Additional resources to make schools safer across Minnesota.
- Boosted support for workforce development, student training programs, and school-private sector partnerships to prepare students for the careers of tomorrow.
Health and Human Services:
- Secured funding for nursing homes and disability services, which I have long worked incredibly hard on.
- Reformed the health care provider tax and Health Care Access Fund (Medical Assistance), and reduced the provider tax by 10%.
- Created a Blue Ribbon Panel charged with finding $100 million in savings from waste and fraud within the Department of Human Services.
- Implemented strict new rules and oversight measures to stop child care assistance fraud and restore integrity to the program.
- Protected the $500 million per biennium that was dedicated to roads and bridges 2 years ago.
- Over $8 billion will be available for roads, bridges, and transit over the next two years.
- NO gas tax increases, tab fee increases, or motor vehicle sales tax increases.
- Fixed the troubled MNLARS system with private sector solution.
- Passed the first middle class income tax cut in almost twenty years.
- Expanded the Working Family tax credit and continued to reduce Social Security Income taxes.
- Reduced the statewide property tax to provide relief for small businesses and farmers.
- Boosted the school bonds agricultural credit, which offsets the heavy burden agricultural property owners pay for school levies.
Environment and Natural Resources and Agriculture:
- Funding to prevent the spread of Chronic Wasting Disease.
- Appropriated funding for the Dairy Assistance, Investment, and Relief Initiative.
This is not meant to be a comprehensive list, but it gives you an idea of some of the things we got done this year. Stay tuned for more information, and if you have any questions, comments, or concerns, please don’t hesitate to contact me any time. Your feedback is extremely important to me and I encourage you to share your input. You can send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org or call my Capitol office at 651-296-5649. It’s a great honor to serve as your State Senator.
Finally, if you don’t already follow me on Facebook, please give my page a ‘Like’. This is a great way to stay on top of the latest news from the Capitol! Visit my page here: https://www.facebook.com/SenatorJeremyMiller/.