Weber: Tax conformity, government accountability at forefront this session

Last year, the Republican-led legislative session turned out to be one of the most productive in recent memory. From $650 million in tax relief for farmers, students, small business owners, and seniors to the multi-billion dollar investment in roads and bridges statewide, our priority was to advance the interests of all Minnesotans.

I expect this session to build on last year’s progress. When the legislature convenes on February 20, we’ll get to work right away addressing the challenges facing our state.

Here’s a rundown of what you can expect:

MNLARS

If you purchased a new vehicle, renewed your license plate tabs, or attempted to transfer a title since last summer, you are likely familiar with the state’s new licensing and vehicle registration system known as MNLARS.

After nearly $100 million and a decade of planning, MNLARS was released this summer and has proved to be the latest example of failed government bureaucracy. With hundreds of thousands of titles in backlog and a software rendered virtually useless, MNLARS has been a headache for consumers, auto dealers, and deputy registrars alike – with no accountability or solutions from the state agencies responsible.

I am confident the legislature will act quickly to address both the short- and long-term aspects of the software. It is also a priority to make things right for the deputy registrars – small business owners themselves – whose costs are mounting due to MNLARS.

We have set up a website for Minnesotans to share their experiences with MNLARS and to continue to apply pressure to the administration to get this fixed. Share your story at www.MNLARSmess.com.

Tax conformity

With the federal tax reform recently passed by Congress, states must update their individual tax codes to reflect those changes – a process called “tax conformity”. While last session brought permanent tax cuts and economic growth to many Minnesotans, we have an opportunity to do even more.

If the legislature doesn’t act, Minnesotans will miss out on many of the benefits of federal tax reform and our state will continue to lag behind our more tax-friendly neighbors. With higher-than-expected state revenue and a healthy, growing economy, we are well-positioned to seriously consider substantive, innovative changes.

Bonding

One of the other overarching issues this session will be the potential bonding bill. $3.5 billion in bonding requests have been submitted by entities across Minnesota, but the final bill will be significantly less and will include both state and local funding.

I expect the bonding bill to place a strong emphasis on infrastructure. Last month, I joined the Capital Investment Committee in Windom as city officials outlined their bonding request for wastewater treatment improvements – seeing firsthand the importance of investing in the infrastructure of our communities.

Other issues

There are plenty of other important issues that will come before the legislature this year.

  • The cost of health insurance remains unaffordable. We will continue the work of stabilizing the insurance market and await action on the federal level.
  • In March, the legislature will get the report from the working group studying ditch mowing. This will be used to create policy later this session.
  • While a comprehensive agriculture budget was passed last year, housing and daycare availability are two issues getting a lot of attention across the district. We will address these needs this session.

Finally, I encourage you to follow me on Facebook (www.facebook.com/SenBillWeber) for updates on the latest from the Capitol. With a short session, things will move quickly – so stay tuned.

Senator Bill Weber is in his second term representing District 22, which includes communities in Cottonwood, Jackson, Lincoln, Lyon, Murray, Nobles, Pipestone, Redwood, and Rock counties.

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