$1.35 billion in meaningful tax relief (3/31/2017)

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By Rep. Tony Jurgens, 3/31/2017

Hello from St. Paul,

The Minnesota House of Representatives has approved legislation that would provide $1.35 billion in meaningful tax relief. The majority of the proposal is targeted towards middle-class Minnesotans.

There are a number of very worthwhile provisions in this bill, but the one I’m most pleased about is the language that would assist our senior citizens. Reducing the taxes on Social Security is something I heard when I was on the campaign trail from a lot of people, so I’m glad that provision is in here. We wish we could go further with it, and hopefully we can do more in the future, but I think this is a nice first step to work towards eliminating the taxes on Social Security benefits in Minnesota.

Specifically, $269 million in relief is provided for Minnesota’s senior citizens by increasing the income limit thresholds for the taxation of Social Security income. Currently, for married couples, income less than $32,000 is exempt and for single filers that amount is the first $25,000. Under this bill, for tax years 2017 and 2018 married couples will see the first $61,000 exempt from income taxes. For single filers, it would amount to the first $46,500. Beginning in 2019 and continuing, the amounts increase further to $72,000 for married filers and $56,000 for single filers.

There’s also $125 million to address college affordability through a first-in-the-nation tax credit for student loan payments; $35 million for families with young children by modifying the child and dependent care credit; $42 million in relief for farmers by reducing the burden farmers and agriculture land owners pay for school bond referendums; and $203 million to eliminate an extra property tax on small businesses up to their first $200,000 of commercial/industrial property.

With a $1.6 billion surplus, it’s clear we need to allow Minnesotans to keep more of what they earn, and this bill does that.

In other news, I continue to work with MnDOT on the Hastings Highway 316 issue. You’ll recall that after hearing from numerous area residents about raising the speed limit, I offered legislation that would require MnDOT to maintain a 35 mile per hour speed limit on Highway 316 from Highway 61 to just north of Tuttle Drive.

I continue to have faith that we will be able to work out a compromise that will make both the neighborhood and MnDOT happy, and continue my efforts to make this happen. To me, this is and always has been an issue about safety, which was my reason for bringing the bill forward in the first place. Hopefully, there’ll be updated news on this topic very soon.

This week, Pastor Randy Berg from Calvary Christian Church in Hastings served as Chaplain of the Day in the Minnesota House.

Constituent Mary Nehring also visited to advocate on behalf of the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network Minnesota.

AFSCME members from Hastings and Cottage Grove also stopped by during their “Day on the Hill.”

A number of area nurses also visited about staffing levels and safety issues.

Nanette and Kay from senior care centers in Hastings also visited the Capitol to advocate for Face Aging Minnesota.

Have a good weekend,
Tony

Representative Tony Jurgens
523 State Office Building
100 Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd.
Saint Paul, Minnesota 55155
651-296-3135
rep.tony.jurgens@house.mn

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A budget surplus of $1.6 billion (3/24/2017)

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By Rep. Tony Jurgens, 3/24/2017

Hello from the State Capitol,

Minnesota House Republicans have unveiled their budget targets for the upcoming biennium, and I’m pleased with a number of the priorities.

With a budget surplus of $1.6 billion, I’ve been looking forward to seeing a plan with some meaningful tax relief. Not only do we have that here, but there’s also more money in our budget for roads and bridges and K-12 Education.

There are a number of provisions that will provide tax relief to middle class Minnesotans. The single largest feature in the bill is the $269 million in relief for Minnesota’s senior citizens by increasing the income limit at which social security income is taxable, which will help those seniors living on a fixed income.

It also provides refundable student loan and college saving plan credits for college students and their families and expanded education deductions and child and dependent care credits for working families.

The tax bill would also eliminate an extra property tax on small businesses up to their first $200,000 of commercial/industrial property and ends the autopilot increases the law applies to this tax; and establishes a property tax credit for farmers that reduces their disproportionate share of school district debt service.

In the area of transportation, The House is looking to invest $450 million into road and bridge infrastructure throughout the state by redirecting existing transportation-related funding streams to the Transportation Priorities Fund. This includes existing taxes on auto repairs, auto rentals, the Motor Vehicle Lease Sales Tax, some of the existing tax on auto parts, and a new $75 surcharge on electric vehicles.

There’s also $1 billion in general-fund serviced Trunk Highway bonds spread over the next four years, $300 million in one-time Corridors of Commerce funding in Fiscal Year 2018, and $200 million per year in general obligation (GO) bonding for transportation and $35 million for rail grade crossings; including one near Treasure Island.

In K-12 Education, the big news is a proposed $1.1 billion in new money being proposed by House Republicans. Over the past few months I have heard from officials in both South Washington County and Hastings schools about the need for new revenue, and this funding infusion would certainly begin to address that need.

In the coming days, these proposals will be debated before their respective House committees and eventually make their way to the House floor for a yes or no vote. I will be sure to keep you updated on their progress.

Recently, Hastings Community Television visited the State Capitol and sat down with me to discuss hot topics being debated at the legislature. To watch the report, please click here.

Have a good weekend,
Tony

Representative Tony Jurgens
523 State Office Building
100 Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd.
Saint Paul, Minnesota 55155
651-296-3135
rep.tony.jurgens@house.mn

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Lowering health insurance premiums is one of our top priorities (3/17/2017)

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By Rep. Tony Jurgens, 3/17/2017

Hello from the State Capitol,

A program designed to stabilize health care premiums by mitigating the impact of high-risk individuals, or those who are the most sick, on the individual health insurance market has been approved in the Minnesota House.

If it becomes law, health insurance premium rates could decrease by 18 percent or more according to a non-partisan fiscal note from the Minnesota Management and Budget Office.

Basically the Minnesota Premium Security Plan provides insurance for insurance companies.

It allows the company to take the most expensive claims and spread out the costs. With the most high-risk patients already covered, the remaining policy holders in the pool would not be held financially responsible through higher premium rates.

Lowering health insurance premiums is one of our top legislative priorities. Earlier this year we approved some premium relief and market reforms, and this bipartisan bill is another way we’re trying to improve the health insurance problems being faced by Minnesotans.

My bill that would maintain the 35 mile per hour speed limit on Highway 316 from Highway 61 to just north of Tuttle Drive is one step away from a floor vote by the Minnesota House of Representatives.

As you’ll recall, MnDOT wants to raise speed limits in this area from 35 to 40 miles per hour. After fielding numerous complaints on the topic, and meeting with MnDOT in hopes of getting the department to reconsider, I’ve authored legislation that would keep the speed limit there as-is.

On Thursday, my proposal was approved on a unanimous vote by the Minnesota House Transportation Finance Committee, and now heads to the Ways and Means Committee for one final committee debate. Next stop after that: House floor.

On Wednesday, I was pleased to attend the Cottage Grove State of the City address given by Mayor Myron Bailey and hear about the positive progress being made. We have seen a lot of commercial and residential activity over the past year, and it appears the upcoming year also looks strong. As a past member of the Cottage Grove Economic Development Authority, it’s nice to see some of the programs I worked on coming to fruition.

This week, I was able to meet with MAPE members and local constituents Danielle Kronebusch, Mary Rock, Fatai Alowanle and Megan Johnson to discuss state employee benefits and other funding initiatives. Thank you for stopping by!

Have a good weekend,
Tony

Representative Tony Jurgens
523 State Office Building
100 Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd.
Saint Paul, Minnesota 55155
651-296-3135
rep.tony.jurgens@house.mn

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Tony’s Legislative Update (3/10/2017)

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By Rep. Tony Jurgens, 3/10/2017

Hello from St. Paul,

Following a disappointing meeting with the Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT) to address speed limit increases in the City of Hastings, I drafted legislation that would require MnDOT to maintain a 35 mile per hour speed limit on Highway 316 from Highway 61 to just north of Tuttle Drive.

MnDOT wants to raise speed limits in five different areas of Hastings this spring, and I have received numerous complaints from residents regarding the five-mile per-hour increase along Highway 316. After meeting with the department it was clear MnDOT wasn’t willing to wait, so I decided to try a different course of action.

A MnDOT representative visited my office on March 7 to discuss its decision. MnDOT indicated that the stretch of Highway 316 from Highway 61 to Tuttle Drive is scheduled to be resurfaced in 2021, and noted that might be the time to address safety concerns in this area, which could include anything from a traffic light, roundabout, or other improvement the department deems necessary.

I asked if the department could simply hold off on increasing the speed limit in this area until 2021 and was told that was not an option. I also asked if radar speed indicator signs in this area could help. MnDOT told me that studies show while the signs are initially effective, ultimately motorists grow accustomed to seeing them and return to faster driving.

I told MnDOT I appreciated the department’s willingness to move from its initial change of 45 to 40 miles per hour, but it still did not adequately address residents’ safety concerns.

In response, I drafted a bill that would maintain the 35 mile per hour speed limit on Highway 316 from Highway 61 to Tuttle Drive. It also required MnDOT to conduct a safety study in that area and report its findings and recommendations to the Legislature.

MnDOT said it has already conducted a study along Highway 316, but it was a speed study to determine how fast people are driving. It has not taken into account the lack of a shoulder in some of the residential areas, lack of turning lanes, and lack of a sidewalk and crosswalk. Area residents don’t want to know how fast people are driving, they want to know they’re going to be safe.

The bill was heard before the Minnesota House Transportation and Regional Governance Policy Committee on March 8. During the hearing, testimony in favor of the legislation was given by Hastings residents Owen Hecht, Dave Rother, and Susan Tate who live in the impacted area. Hastings City Council members Joe Balsanek, Trevor Lund and Tina Folch were also in attendance to support the bill.

Hastings City Council members Joe Balsanek, Trevor Lund and Tina Folch were also in attendance to support the bill.

Hastings City Council members Joe Balsanek, Trevor Lund and Tina Folch were also in attendance to support the bill.

Mayor Paul Hicks also sent a letter of support that was distributed to committee members.

The bill was ultimately approved by a unanimous vote and now heads to the Minnesota Transportation Finance Committee for further debate.

I was also pleased to meet with several area residents this week. Hastings constituent Katy Lindberg was here for Insurance Day at the Capitol.

I was also pleased to meet with several area residents this week. Hastings constituent Katy Lindberg was here for Insurance Day at the Capitol.

I was also pleased to meet with several area residents this week. Hastings constituent Katy Lindberg was here for Insurance Day at the Capitol.

Members of the Minnesota Farm Bureau in Dakota County also stopped by to visit about their legislative issues.

Members of the Minnesota Farm Bureau in Dakota County also stopped by to visit about their legislative issues.

Members of the Minnesota Farm Bureau in Dakota County also stopped by to visit about their legislative issues.

This morning I was able to present St. Elizabeth Ann Seton teacher Kathy Gleich with a House resolution in honor of her being named Hastings Chamber of Commerce Educator of the Year. Congratulations!

This morning I was able to present St. Elizabeth Ann Seton teacher Kathy Gleich with a House resolution in honor of her being named Hastings Chamber of Commerce Educator of the Year. Congratulations!

This morning I was able to present St. Elizabeth Ann Seton teacher Kathy Gleich with a House resolution in honor of her being named Hastings Chamber of Commerce Educator of the Year. Congratulations!

Have a good weekend,
Tony

Representative Tony Jurgens
523 State Office Building
100 Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd.
Saint Paul, Minnesota 55155
651-296-3135
rep.tony.jurgens@house.mn

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Tony’s Legislative Update (3/3/2017)

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By Rep. Tony Jurgens, 3/3/2017

Hello from the State Capitol,

State lawmakers received some good news recently as we learned Minnesota is facing another positive economic forecast.

Our fiscal experts say our state now has a $1.65 billion budget surplus. This is $250 million more than was expected from our previous budget forecast that was released near the end of 2016.

Going inside the numbers, tax revenues are forecast to be $321 million more than the November estimate. Nearly 81 percent ($274 million) of the increased tax revenues are from individual income earners. But that revenue growth is offset by $156 million more in spending than projected. That includes $95 million in E-12 education and $73 million in health care, due to more people using these services.

An improved U.S. economic outlook and positive numbers for key economic data points such as personal income growth, employment, and consumer spending also contributed to the additional surplus revenue.

In addition to the current surplus for Fiscal Year 2018-19, our economists are projecting a $2.1 billion surplus for the 2020-2021 biennium.

I was pleasantly surprised to see these figures. With this sizable surplus, some will inevitably call for more spending within state government. While its true that we do have some projects that need to be funded this year, particularly when it comes to roads and bridges, I think it’s important that we don’t spend it all and be fiscally responsible.

To me, when you continue to have repeated budget surplus projections it’s a sign that you’ve taken too much money from the taxpayers. I’d like to see us focus on tax relief for the middle class and give the people who created the surplus a financial break.

Last week I was able to participate in the Hastings Tourism event at City Hall and join other area lawmakers for a tour of Flint Hills Resources. Thank you for the invitations!

Last week I was able to participate in the Hastings Tourism event at City Hall and join other area lawmakers for a tour of Flint Hills Resources. Thank you for the invitations!

Last week I was able to participate in the Hastings Tourism event at City Hall and join other area lawmakers for a tour of Flint Hills Resources. Thank you for the invitations!

In St. Paul, I visited with Hastings resident Jamie Tharp with Pulte Homes representing the Builders Association of America.

In St. Paul, I visited with Hastings resident Jamie Tharp with Pulte Homes representing the Builders Association of America.

In St. Paul, I visited with Hastings resident Jamie Tharp with Pulte Homes representing the Builders Association of America.

I also visited with Afton residents Joan and Richard Meierotto and Kimberly Scott.

I also visited with Afton residents Joan and Richard Meierotto and Kimberly Scott.

I also visited with Afton residents Joan and Richard Meierotto and Kimberly Scott.

Latasha Schipper, Richard Welshons & David Welshons of DCA Title in Hastings stopped by on behalf of the Minnesota Land Title Association.

Latasha Schipper, Richard Welshons & David Welshons of DCA Title in Hastings stopped by on behalf of the Minnesota Land Title Association.

Latasha Schipper, Richard Welshons & David Welshons of DCA Title in Hastings stopped by on behalf of the Minnesota Land Title Association.

Cindy Toppin with Safe Passage Minnesota visited in order to advocate for children to reach their full potential.

Cindy Toppin with Safe Passage Minnesota visited in order to advocate for children to reach their full potential.

Cindy Toppin with Safe Passage Minnesota visited in order to advocate for children to reach their full potential.

This week also marked Minnesota Building Trades Day at the Capitol, and I’d like thank local carpenters, laborers, and electricians for stopping in.

This week also marked Minnesota Building Trades Day at the Capitol, and I’d like thank local carpenters, laborers, and electricians for stopping in.

This week also marked Minnesota Building Trades Day at the Capitol, and I’d like thank local carpenters, laborers, and electricians for stopping in.

Have a good weekend,
Tony

Representative Tony Jurgens
523 State Office Building
100 Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd.
Saint Paul, Minnesota 55155
651-296-3135
rep.tony.jurgens@house.mn

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Taking off into the future!

Thank you to Ms. Bump’s preschool students at Tilden Elementary in Hastings for the artwork. I’m looking forward to visiting soon.

Thank you to Ms. Bump's preschool students at Tilden Elementary in Hastings for the artwork. I'm looking forward to visiting soon.

Thank you to Ms. Bump’s preschool students at Tilden Elementary in Hastings for the artwork. I’m looking forward to visiting soon.