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Legislative News and Views - Rep. Shane Mekeland (R)

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Update from the House

Friday, February 15, 2019

Dear Neighbor,

We are now six weeks into the legislative session and discussions over the state’s next two-year budget soon will pick up. Gov. Tim Walz is expected to put out his budget recommendations this coming Tuesday. Then an updated economic forecast will be issued at the end of the month and the House and Senate will follow by coming forward with their own budget proposals. Then the challenge will be to find agreement before the Legislature is scheduled to adjourn in late May. Things should get interesting…

As for the governor, he made big news this week when he completely blew his first big decision in office. The Public Utilities Commission unanimously granted the certificate of need that is necessary to proceed with replacing the Enbridge Line 3 pipeline across northern Minnesota. Instead of honoring that decision and allowing this project to proceed, the governor announced he is challenging the PUC’s decision in court.

I was among a number of legislators who recently co-signed a letter to the governor, encouraging him to support the project and direct state agencies to complete the permitting process that would allow this critically important project to move forward. In part, the letter read:

“We believe after more than 3 ½ years of review and evaluation of the project by state and federal experts, 65 public meetings by state agencies, three weeks of evidentiary hearings by the Administrative Law Judge, tens of thousands of public comments, and the unanimous votes by the PUC, it is clearly time for the process to continue.”

It is disappointing the governor chose to block progress on this project to replace a 60-year-old pipeline with a new, safer line. Barely one month into office and he’s already siding with the Twin Cities environmentalists and proving his “One Minnesota” slogan to be nothing more than a catchy phrase to gain office.

Just this week, the Star Tribune reported that safety officials are concerned by increased oil train traffic coming in from Canada. The article specifically cited "pipeline limbo" as a factor that is partially to blame for the increase in rail traffic.

Social Security taxes

On another subject, bills have been authored to reduce the income taxes the state claims from seniors’ Social Security taxes. A bill enacted in 2017 allowed for a subtraction from social security income. The maximum subtraction allowed was $4,700 for married joint filers, $2,350 for married filing separately, and $3,660 for single and head of household. The result has been 284,000 senior citizens receiving tax reductions and approximately 72,000 of our seniors no longer paying any income tax social security. Now it’s time to take it a step further and I have co-authored a bill (H.F. 56) that would provide an unlimited Social Security subtraction.

MNLARS audit report

A report from the Office of the Legislative Auditor (OLA) was issued Thursday following its investigation into the complete catastrophe that the new MNLARS system has been since the moment it was launched a couple of years ago. Things got so bad that longtime State Auditor Jim Nobles used his subpoena power for the first time in order to get to the bottom of this mess and help put to an end the constant headaches MNLARS has caused Minnesotans.

The OLA determined that “Ultimately, the Minnesota Department of Public Safety (DPS) and Office of Minnesota Information Technology Services (MNIT) must share the blame for the system’s deficiencies. The project’s total amount of funding (more than $100 million) and time (nine years leading up to the 2017 release) should have been sufficient to successfully complete this project.”

A number of recommendations for improvements were offered by the OLA. Those details are in the full report, which can be found at this link.

The bottom line is Minnesotans deserve a licensing system that works and also to know what to expect before any more tax collars are dumped into this failing system.

Until next time, have a good weekend,


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