Last fall, for just the second time in 40 years, Minnesotans elected a Republican House and Senate to represent them at the State Capitol. Throughout the campaign, we pledged to work to tackle the health care crisis, return the surplus to taxpayers through meaningful tax relief, and use the tax dollars you’re already sending us to rebuild our crumbling road and bridge infrastructure.
We’re proud to report that we accomplished all three of those goals and so many more. This year’s legislative session will go down as one of the most productive in modern history. Working under divided government, legislators scored key, bipartisan victories that will help Minnesotans in all corners of the state.
On health care, the Legislature delivered emergency premium relief for Minnesotans who have been devastated by rising costs under the failed Obamacare health law and paired it with reforms aimed at increasing competition and choice in the struggling individual market. Weeks later, the Legislature passed a reinsurance program that will provide stability to the individual market and help prevent the kind of massive premium increases we’ve seen over the past three years.
These reforms put Minnesota back on its way to becoming a nationwide leader in health care once again and undoing the damage that’s been inflicted on our health care system by Obamacare.
Once the two major health care bills were passed, our attention turned to the state budget. Republicans fought every step of the way to preserve as much of the surplus as possible for middle-class tax relief and road and bridge funding.
Despite the governor’s resistance, Republicans prevailed on both and successfully dedicated more than two-thirds of the remaining surplus to tax relief and roads and bridges.
The tax bill passed with overwhelming bipartisan support in the House and Senate and was ultimately signed by the governor. It represents the largest tax cut in nearly two decades, and puts more than $650 million back in the pockets of Minnesotans over the next two years.
Why was the tax bill so broadly supported by Republicans and Democrats alike? Put simply, this historic tax bill prioritized middle-class tax relief and targeted tax cuts to spur our economy and grow jobs.
More than a quarter-million seniors will receive a tax cut on the Social Security income they earned. College graduates burdened with student loan debt will benefit from a new tax credit for loan payments. Families saving for their child’s higher-education costs will benefit from tax relief for contributions to 529 savings plans.
Farmers will see relief thanks to an agriculture land school bond credit. Hometown businesses will now be able to exempt the first $100,000 of property value, a huge boost to our smallest mom-and-pop shops in all corners of the state.
Last, the Legislature ended years of gridlock on the issue of transportation by passing the largest road and bridge funding in a decade. Transportation is a basic function of government, yet before this year we were one of just a handful of states that did not dedicate part of our biennial budget to prioritize funding for roads and bridges.
Our transportation bill puts more than $5 billion in new money into roads and bridges over the next decade — without a gas tax or license tab fee increase. In fact, the investment over the next two years represents the largest amount ever spent on transportation without a gas tax or tab fee increase in state history.
The Legislature also legalized Sunday liquor sales, passed Real ID, and froze tuition at our two- and four-year Minnesota state schools. These tremendous successes would not have been possible without the cooperation and compromise efforts of Gov. Mark Dayton. During the final days of session, the House and Senate worked closely with his administration to negotiate and finalize all of the bills that he ultimately signed.
That’s why we’re so disappointed over the governor’s unprecedented and unconstitutional actions that have tainted what should have been a time for bipartisan celebration. His choice to veto funding for the Legislature and silence the locally elected voices of 5 million Minnesotans in districts across the state is unacceptable.
The governor has presented us a false choice: undo the compromise he personally agreed to or he will eliminate the Legislature. His actions will result in a costly, taxpayer-funded and unnecessary legal battle that he is sure to lose.
It has been said on the Star Tribune’s editorial page before that Dayton considers former Gov. Rudy Perpich a role model. Perpich is known for amending or rescinding his vetoes after further consideration, and we urge the governor to follow his lead. As Perpich said, “none of us is as smart as all of us.” Governor, it is not too late for all of us to celebrate our shared accomplishments from this legislative session.
Paul Gazelka, R-Nisswa, is majority leader of the Minnesota Senate. Kurt Daudt, R-Crown, is speaker of the Minnesota House.