Middle-class tax relief (4/27/2018)

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By Rep. Tony Jurgens, 4/27/2018

Hello from the State Capitol,

This week, Minnesota House leadership offered legislation that will not only help our state conform to changes with the federal tax relief law but would also provide some additional middle-class tax relief. In all, more than 2.1 million Minnesota filers would see an income tax decrease in tax year 2018.

Specifically the proposal would help the middle class keep more of what they earn by cutting the second tier income tax rate. The bill would also lower taxes for people in all income levels by increasing the standard deduction from $13,000 to $14,000; preserve a state personal and dependent exemption of $4,150; and allow a state-itemized deduction of up to $30,000 in property taxes.

The proposal itself is quite comprehensive, and Governor Dayton and the House actually see eye to eye on a number of provisions within the bill. But we also have differences to reconcile. As you’ll recall, last week the governor’s revenue department found that his proposal would raise taxes on Minnesotans in every income bracket and reinstate more than $1 billion in health care tax increases.

One Democratic lawmaker who serves on the taxes committee told me he’s optimistic we’ll find a workable solution by session’s end, and hopefully that’s the case.

On a strong bipartisan vote, the Minnesota House approved a supplemental education funding bill yesterday that puts student safety first. It gives school districts the flexibility to decide how to use new resources in order to best meet the needs of its school and its students. Hiring more school resources officers, upgrading buildings, providing mental health programming, and adopting school-based threat assessment teams are among the choices for school leaders.

The bill also included legislation I’m authoring that addresses lunch shaming in schools. My proposal would strengthen the current law that’s in place by specifically prohibiting that practice.

You’ll recall a school employee in Stewartville tossed a student’s meal in the garbage because of a negative school lunch balance, blatantly ignoring state law that was supposed to prevent this shaming from happening. Hopefully this provision will convince lunchroom employees from thinking twice before embarrassing a student that doesn’t have money to pay for a meal.

On Friday I joined the commissioners of the administration and veterans affairs departments along with Senator Bigham for a tour of the Minnesota Veterans Home in Hastings. The purpose was to highlight the need to make needed improvements at the facility.

There’s no doubt that veterans in our state our underserved, and that the need for new veterans’ homes across this state exists. But it’s also critical that lawmakers don’t forget their responsibility to properly maintain our current buildings such as the veterans’ home in Hastings. This goes beyond asset preservation, as deferred maintenance is leaving this facility in an alarming condition. Taking action now before the problems worsen and costs increase is the least we can do for those who bravely fought for our freedoms.

I also joined State Representatives Roz Peterson and Dario Anselmo on a tour of the Washington Technology Magnet School in St. Paul. The school serves students in grades 6 through 12 with a science, mathematics and technology focus. It was interesting to learn that among the 2,100 students, 42 different languages are spoken and statistics show that 90 percent of them will pursue technology careers or vocational education. Great things are being done here.

Among the visitors to the State Capitol this week was constituent Dave Peterson, who is a fellow Knights of Columbus member. Interesting side note: his sister Kathy Lohmer is a former Hastings resident and a current state representative representing the Stillwater area.

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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Dayton’s tax plan would raise taxes on Minnesotans (4/20/2018)

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By Rep. Tony Jurgens, 4/20/2018

Hello from the State Capitol,

As we begin to create a supplemental budget for the remainder of this two-year budget cycle, House lawmakers learned this week that Governor Dayton’s tax plan would raise taxes on Minnesotans in every income bracket.

According to a tax incidence study issued by Governor Dayton’s revenue department, the governor’s proposal would make Minnesota’s tax code more regressive and that households making less than $32,000 would be hit hardest.

What’s most startling is that the analysis directly contradicts claims by Governor Dayton that his budget would cut taxes for over 2 million Minnesotans and their families, and by the revenue commissioner that it prioritizes low-income and middle-class families. The proposal itself would reinstate more than $1 billion in health care tax increases, repeal tax reductions enacted last session, and make numerous changes reacting to tax changes at the federal level.

The Minnesota House Taxes Committee is currently vetting the Governor’s plan and giving it a full hearing. Personally, with Minnesota’s economy doing well, I don’t see the need to raise taxes on anyone and I won’t ever see the need to raise taxes on the families in the lowest income brackets already struggling to make ends meet. As session moves forward, I’m hopeful all sides will be able to work out a compromise and try to keep as many Minnesotans as possible from being impacted by changes to the federal tax code.

Also this week our struggling deputy registrars would get a much needed break under legislation approved by the Minnesota House. Recognizing that deputy registrars have been spending countless dollars out of their own pocket due to Minnesota’s failing licensing and registration system (MNLARS), the House plan would appropriate $9 million from Driver and Vehicle Services operating accounts for reimbursement aid to them. That would mean nearly $150,000 for local deputy registrars. While we realize this doesn’t make the deputy registrars across the state whole, hopefully it will help offset the losses they incurred.

The bill now heads to the Minnesota Senate for its approval.

On Wednesday, Minnesota House lawmakers unveiled a plan that would help construct three new veterans’ homes in underserved areas of our state – Bemidji, Montevideo and Preston. I support that idea, but I also want to make sure legislators don’t forget their responsibility to maintain current facilities, such as the veterans home in Hastings. Last year I authored legislation that helped fund many Hastings veterans home improvements, but more work remains and I will continue fighting for the needs of our local facility and those who fought for our freedoms.

Last week you’ll recall I hosted USA Olympic gold medalist Jessie Diggins and her family at the Minnesota House of Representatives. We held a press conference where she expressed her support of my bill that could help could bring an International Ski Federation Nordic World Cup Ski Championship to Minnesota, as it would direct the Minnesota Amateur Sports Commission to support the preparation and submission of a competitive bid to host the event in our state.

I have good news to report on that front, as the chair of the House State Government Finance Committee has agreed to include my bill in a comprehensive state government bill that will be debated on the House floor in the coming weeks.

This week I joined Representative Keith Franke at Cottage Grove’s annual volunteer banquet held at River Oaks Golf Course. Congratulations to Justin Fox who was named “Volunteer of the Year.”

At the Capitol, I was able to meet with Latasha Schipper, David Welshons and Richard Welshons from DCA Title in Hastings. They were visiting on behalf of Minnesota Land Title Association. Wayne Butt and Randy Bachman from the Cottage Grove Area Chamber of Commerce also stopped in for a visit.

Correctional officers from Minnesota prisons were also in St. Paul this week to discuss a variety of issues including pensions, officer pay, the Appleton prison and more.

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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Recognizing Gold Medalist Jessie Diggins in the MN House (4/13/2018)

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By Rep. Tony Jurgens, 4/13/2018

Hello from St. Paul,

Yesterday I had the honor of hosting USA Olympic gold medalist (and Afton resident and constituent) Jessie Diggins, her sister Mackenzie, and her parents Clay and Deb at the State Capitol.

It was truly a special day, as I wanted to give Jessie and her family the recognition they deserve and give all of us in the Minnesota House a chance to show our appreciation for Jessie’s historic Olympic accomplishments as the first American to win gold in cross-country skiing.

This is Jessie’s first trip home since winning gold, and therefore the first opportunity to be greeted in her home state – and it happened on the House floor.

After a short visit in my office, we began the day with a meet-and-greet with supporters, legislators and staff, where people could take pictures, receive an autograph, visit with the family, and have a gold-medal cookie prepared by Emily’s Bakery in Hastings.

From there we held a press conference at the Capitol regarding my bill that supports bringing an International Ski Federation Nordic World Ski Championship to Minnesota.

My bill would direct the Minnesota Amateur Sports Commission to support the preparation and submission of a competitive bid to host the event in our state. The goal of bringing this championship to Minnesota is not new, but I believe state involvement could help the plan cross the finish line. With Jessie taking the gold medal in cross country several weeks ago, interest is now at a peak and we’d like to take advantage of the momentum.

If you’re interested in learning more about this bill and Jessie’s thoughts on holding the championship in Minnesota, click here for a report from Fox 9, and here for KARE 11’s story.

Finally, we arrived at the House floor. Jessie joined Speaker Daudt at the podium and gaveled us into session.

I was then able to read and present her with a House resolution recognizing her gold medal win, and the full House and gallery then gave her two well-deserved standing ovations.

If you would like to see the full House resolution presentation, please click here.

Again, it was truly a pleasure to host the Diggins family and Minnesota’s gold medal winner.

Jessie is truly a remarkable young woman and an inspiration to many. I’m so pleased she and her family could visit the State Capitol so we could share our pride with them, and am hopeful we gave them a memorable experience.

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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Making in-district visits and hearing constituents (4/6/2018)

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By Rep. Tony Jurgens, 4/6/2018

Hello from the State Capitol,

A quiet week at the Capitol as lawmakers are away for Easter/Passover break. This gave me the opportunity to make a number of in-district visits and hear what constituents had to say.

I gave a legislative update to the Hastings City Council as well as the Denmark Township Board where the Minnesota Department of Transportation gave members an update on the Highway 95 project. This week, MnDOT announced that they expect to spend $1.1 billion on 253 state road and bridge projects this year.

This includes the safety improvements being seen in Washington County along Highway 95 and Manning Avenue. The department is widening shoulders, resurfacing the roads, adding turn lanes, improving intersection sight lines and updating drainage. Work will continue here through late fall of 2019. The result will reduce crashes and congestion and lead to a much safer roadway through Denmark Township and Afton.

I was able to attend the Cottage Grove Area Chamber of Commerce Business Breakfast held at 3M to visit with local business leaders and to hear Jenny Holman from Clockwork talk about using the social media in your business. The annual event was well attended as usual, even with the snow and ice that morning that canceled many schools in the area.

The Hastings Tastings event provided a great opportunity to meet with residents while sampling some of the finest dishes from local restaurants and businesses. All proceeds went to Hastings Family Service.

I was also glad that I could attend the State of Dakota County address presented by board chair Kathleen Gaylord and to visit with Dakota County Commissioner Mike Slavic and many others following the presentation. Commissioner Gaylord spoke about county parks, transportation, public safety and more.

A tour of Tubman Center East really opened my eyes to the wonderful resources the organization provides. Tubman provides a safe haven for victims of relationship violence, sexual assault and exploitation, elder abuse, addiction and other forms of trauma. They provide shelter, legal services, mental and chemical health counseling, youth programs and community education. As a non-profit, Tubman is funded through grants and donations. I am co-author on House File 2705 which would provide one time supplemental support to help Tubman consolidate three locations into two to save money and gain efficiencies.

Several weeks ago I attended a kickoff workshop for No Kid Hungry in School District 833. With the break from work in St. Paul, I was able to attend the latest meeting and take part in a great discussion including the reasoning and background information for my school lunch shaming bill. Through the dialogue, we came up with another idea for legislation that I intend to introduce in the near future. I’ll have more on that in the coming weeks.

A few weeks ago I visited Riverview Elementary school in St. Paul with Rep. Carlos Mariani and this week I was able to return the favor. Rep. Mariani and I visited McAuliffe Elementary and Pinecrest Elementary in Hastings. Rep. Mariani is the DFL lead and former chair of the House Education Finance Committee, a committee on which I serve. We wanted to visit schools in each other’s districts to help us both understand the educational needs of kids from different backgrounds and areas of the metro.

A tour of the Little Beginnings Learning Center brought a smile to my face. I had a great visit with Jen and Wade Gelhar, and also visited Miss Tori’s room where her students sang a penguin song and asked questions. Tori is my daughter so seeing her working with the children was a great sense of pride for me.

Kellie and Todd Akins at Innovative Surfaces in Hastings gave me a tour of their facility. They’ve done custom countertops and fabrication for over 30 years and have employ more than 100 residents. Thanks for the tour!

This week I was also interviewed by Minnpost regarding school lunch debt and by legislation that would prevent lunch shaming in schools. To read the article, 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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Putting student safety first (4/2/2018)

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By Rep. Tony Jurgens, 4/2/2018

Hello from St. Paul,

Minnesota House Republicans unveiled a legislative package Thursday aimed at putting student safety first.

One of the more important aspects of the plan is that we want to let school districts decide how to best ensure the protection of our students, and are looking to allocate nearly $50 million to schools statewide in order to do that. School building security upgrades, hiring more school resource officers and student counselors are among the options.

There are a number of proposals that will be included in the comprehensive plan, all of which are making their way through various House committees. They include:

  • School resources officers, student support personnel, and other school security programs funded through increased Safe Schools revenue, including a minimum level of funding for small schools.
  • School building security upgrades, and expanded use of Long-Term Facility Maintenance revenue for security projects, including emergency communications systems.
  • School-linked mental health programming to ensure better outcomes for all kids.
  • Physical security audit grants to provide state assistance to review facility security and crisis management policies.
  • Suicide prevention training for teachers to help educators learn how to engage and assist students experiencing mental distress
  • School-based threat assessment teams established to assess, intervene, and report threats facing students, teachers, and staff.

I’ll be sure to provide future updates on the plan as session moves ahead.

On Tuesday, the Minnesota House Agriculture Finance Committee discussed a number of bills addressing mental health for farm families.

As a member of this committee, it was interesting to hear the testimony. Like many other businesses, farmers face mental health struggles which can be caused by any number of problems. First, there is the weather and other things beyond human control. Then there are low commodity prices that make it difficult to make a profit. And there are mandates forced upon them by government.

It’s actually ironic if you think about it. On one hand, perhaps state government is helping to cause farmers stress, and now state government is looking at ways to relieve that stress through counseling and other programs.

I’ll be keeping an eye on this legislation in the weeks ahead.

With the Easter/Passover break upon us, many lawmakers will be getting out of town for a few days. However I plan on sticking around our district, whether it’s attending meetings, touring schools or visiting businesses.

With less than two months remaining in session, it’s important for me to hear from residents in our communities and learn about initiatives on which they want action.

Along those lines, if you have any legislative questions or comments, I strongly encourage you to contact me at any time. Feel free to call 651-296-3135 or email rep.tony.jurgens@house.mn.

Last week constituent Wayne Butt stopped by for a visit. He and his wife Angi own the Historic John P. Furber Farm wedding venue, and he traveled to the Capitol to testify in favor of legislation requiring safety inspections of public buildings by the state fire marshal.

Nanette Marsh and Mary Gabrielson from Ebenezer DayBreak Adult Day Program in Hastings were in last week to speak in favor of House File 3308 which provides protections for older and vulnerable adults.

Megan Aherns, a student from my district, visited me on Thursday to learn about state government. It was great having her join me at a press conference, interviews, committee hearings, a floor session and more.

Have a good week,
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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