When the dust settled on the 2018 election, Minnesota was the only state in the nation with a divided government. Republicans in the Senate made it a priority to work with Democrats in the House and with DFL Gov. Tim Walz to pass a budget with bipartisan votes in each body. We got the budget done on time, without the drama of a prolonged special session.
Our 2020 vision will build on the successes of the 2019 session. Republicans will continue to work with Democrats in the House and Gov. Walz to get things done, even as we fight hard for our principles.
Over the last three years, Senate Republicans worked hard to save the individual health insurance market and dramatically lowered premiums through the reinsurance program, keeping health care affordable for families, farmers and self-employed businesses. Minnesotans now enjoy the lowest health insurance premiums in the nation.
Our 2020 vision for health care will build on our work in pharmaceutical transparency with a drug reimportation program so patients can get cheaper Canadian drug prices at their local pharmacy — including insulin.
We also demanded more accountability from a failing Department of Human Services. We will continue to hold the department accountable for the waste, fraud and abuse happening under its watch.
Under the largest investment in roads and bridges since 2008, Senate Republicans paid for the repair and replacement of thousands of lane-miles and bridges across Minnesota — without raising the gas tax or increasing license tab fees. In addition, Senate Republicans finally resolved the fatally flawed Minnesota Licensing and Registration System (MNLARS) by bringing in expertise from the private sector to build a system that works.
Our 2020 vision for transportation includes more funding for road and bridge construction, including making it a priority in the bonding bill.
We are taking the concerns about public safety from our constituents seriously. No one should fear visiting downtown for a baseball game or riding public transit to work. Crime and homicides in the last year ticked upward in the Twin Cities, and Senate Republicans will do our work to prevent dangerous criminals from being released with lower-than-recommended sentences and to confirm that those who have been ordered to give up their guns through due process have done so. Our proposals will have bipartisan support and protect people and their rights.
Republicans increased the per-pupil education funding formula 2% per year for the last four years — putting resources directly into the classroom. We also provided money for critical school needs such as expanded school readiness and special education. And we made school safety a top priority with $50 million over the last four years for flexible safe schools revenue.
Our 2020 vision for education will address Minnesota’s persistent achievement gap beginning with our youngest children, using data to identify which early learning programs actually work the best and making them our top priorities. We will also renew our commitment to real school choice for families and students stuck in failing schools.
In 2017, Republicans delivered $650 million in tax relief — allowing families to keep more of their hard-earned money. The package included a reduction in income taxes for seniors receiving Social Security, a tax credit for recent college graduates paying off student loans, a tax credit for beginning farmers and property tax relief for small businesses.
We followed that up in 2019 with the first middle-class income tax cut in nearly two decades, property tax relief for farmers from local school bonds, further cuts to Social Security taxes and another round of property tax cuts for Main Street businesses. Our 2020 vision for the economy will build on these successes and use any available budget surplus money for further tax relief such as cutting small-business and agriculture taxes and finally exempting all Social Security income from Minnesota taxes.
The 2020 election will be here before we know it. Last year, Republicans worked to secure Minnesota election integrity with dedicated Help America Vote Act (HAVA) funding along with investments to improve Minnesota’s election equipment. Elections would be even more secure if we require a photo ID to confirm that you are who you say you are and that you are eligible to vote in the election.
Minnesotans appreciate balance in state government and the Republican Senate will work with Gov. Walz and the House in the 2020 session to produce real results in health care, public safety, education, transportation and tax reform.
Paul Gazelka, R-Nisswa, is majority leader of the Minnesota Senate.