There’s Good News and Bad News to Report (5/30/2018)

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By Rep. Tony Jurgens, 5/30/2018

Hello from St. Paul,

There’s good news and bad news to report from St. Paul as Governor Dayton has taken action on compromise legislation approved by the Minnesota House and Senate.

Unfortunately the bad news is pretty bad. Governor Dayton vetoed two major pieces of legislation, the supplemental budget bill and a proposal that provided funding for our schools, instituted tax relief and conformed state and federal tax laws.

On the taxes side of the equation, tax conformity was critical this session because when the federal government approved new tax laws, Minnesota needed to adjust its state income tax policies in order to match up with the new guidelines. The plan also provided the first tax rate cut in 20 years, which would have benefited millions of Minnesotans. With the veto all of that is gone, plus filing your income taxes next year is expected to be more difficult, and it’s now estimated that roughly 300,000 Minnesotans will actually face tax increases because of this decision.

Schools also took a hit. Our proposal provided up to $225 million to assist school districts statewide, which resulted in well over $1 million lost for Hastings and South Washington County.

Our supplemental budget plan would have prevented a 7% cut to the Disability Waiver Rate System, which impacts people with disabilities and their caretakers. Special education and Head Start students, people in need of mental health support; opioid addiction victims; and deputy registrars whose businesses are floundering due to the MNLARS mess are among those who will also suffer from the governor’s decision. Unfortunately, my provision that addresses school lunch shaming was included in the bill the governor vetoed. This is an issue I feel very strongly about so I intend to continue working on it in the future.

The vetoes are difficult for me to comprehend, especially since the bills passed with bipartisan support and the governor couldn’t really give any significant reasons why he made the moves. Also keep in mind these bills included a number of provisions he fought for, and that the Legislature addressed, eliminated, or altered 70% of other concerns he had with our proposals. I fear these vetoes were nothing more than political gamesmanship, which is the type of action that makes most Minnesotans cringe.

On the brighter side, the governor did sign into law our capital investment proposal. This includes $178 million in asset preservation, some of which will be utilized at the Hastings Veterans Home. Also included was funding for my proposal that will help create the Health and Emergency Response Occupations (HERO) Center proposal in Washington County, as well as the Dakota County SMART Center.

The governor also signed a bill that addresses the $850 million settlement between 3M and the State of Minnesota, which will help ensure the funds are used only in the East Metro in order to keep our drinking water clean.

Though this legislative session ended with some ups and downs, I’m pleased with the success stories that were brought forward during my first term as your state representative. Whether it was historic tax relief for the middle class and hundreds of millions of dollars dedicated to transportation at the state level, or protecting Highway 316 speed limits in Hastings and providing guardrails for 3M settlement dollars at the local level, we made good progress in a number of areas.

In other news, it was great to see many of you at our local Memorial Day events. I was pleased to attend the Hastings Veterans Home flag ceremony, a Memorial Day service, and a wreath ceremony in Hastings Monday morning. I also attended Cottage Grove’s Memorial Day service later that afternoon. That was followed by a return to Hastings to greet the dozens of individuals who braved 100 degree heat to walk 28 miles from Red Wing to Hastings as part of their Memorial Day March for Them.

These events were not only terrific but touching, and it was a privilege to be in attendance. Hats off to all of the organizers who spent countless hours planning these ceremonies, reminding us that freedom isn’t free and honoring those men and women who paid the ultimate price.

Talk to you soon,
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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Session Ends With Many Bipartisan Agreements (5/21/2018)

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By Rep. Tony Jurgens, 5/21/2018

Hello from St. Paul,

The 2018 Legislative Session has come to a close, and while the final days were hectic, we did approve a number of common sense provisions and sent them to Governor Dayton for his approval.

Locally, both legislative bodies approved a bill that ensures public transparency and guardrails for the $850 million 3M settlement. The goal of the proposal is to be sure the funds are used only in the East Metro in order to keep our drinking water clean.

Additionally, the legislation includes a provision I authored relating to testing private wells in the East Metro. Under the plan, the MPCA must develop a webpage that includes the process for public and private well perflurochemicals (PFCs) sampling in the east metro area. The webpage will include an interactive map that allows people to view locations of well advisories and areas projected to be sampled for PFCs, and contact information for the MPCA and Department of Health to answer questions on the sampling of private wells. Results must also be reported to impacted communities and the Legislature.

I’ve been working with the MPCA on the well-testing issue and am pleased we found an acceptable compromise. Transparency throughout this process is not only important to me but those who are concerned about the safety of their drinking water, and I truly believe this is a positive step forward.

In the area of taxes, we approved what would be the first income tax rate cut for Minnesotans in nearly two decades by reducing the first and second tier income tax rates. In total, the bill cuts taxes for 2.2 million Minnesotans, and 99.8% of Minnesotans – in other words, almost all of you – would see tax reductions or be held harmless by tax changes made at the federal level.

In K-12 Education, we agreed to make available up to $225 million in funding for schools across Minnesota. We also approved approximately $28 million in school safety funding that gives schools resources and flexibility to make physical safety improvements and boost efforts for student mental health. Combined with bonding dollars, House Republicans have proposed more than $50 million in this area.

Transportation infrastructure also received another funding infusion. You’ll recall last year the Legislature made the largest investment in roads and bridges in a decade, putting billions of dollars over the next ten years towards the state’s transportation needs without raising gas taxes or license tab fees.

In an effort to combat the opioid epidemic, we instituted a number of reforms that we hope will help those fighting addiction, approved several provisions that address elder abuse and will better protect our elderly and vulnerable adults, and passed a pension reform proposal for our state employees.

We approved a capital investment plan that will fund needed construction projects across Minnesota. Included in the plan was funding for my Health and Emergency Response Occupations (HERO) Center proposal in Washington County, the Dakota County SMART Center, and asset preservation funding for Veterans Affairs, some of which would help local residents at the Hastings Veterans Home.

As with any negotiation, each side has to give something to get something. For instance, before we sent him our supplemental budget legislation, Governor Dayton found more than 100 items he objected to in the bills. It was important for us to show him we were acting in good faith, which is why leadership agreed to remove or modify 60 percent of those provisions. It’s also important to note these bill also contained a number of major priorities the governor insisted we include.

As I write this, I remain optimistic that the Governor will sign the legislation. These bills build off of many of last session’s successes – including middle-class tax relief and increased transportation funding. In most cases they were approved in a bipartisan fashion, which is usually a telling sign that the proposals being passed are good ones.

Though session has ended, I am always available to respond to your thoughts and concerns. Please feel free to contact me by e-mail at rep.tony.jurgens@house.mn or contact my office at 651-296-3135 to share your thoughts, concerns, and ideas. I look forward to hearing from you!

Talk to you soon,
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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Passing bills with bipartisan support (5/11/2018)

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By Rep. Tony Jurgens, 5/11/2018

Hello from the State Capitol,

This week the House spent the majority of its time passing a number of policy bills – most with either strong bipartisan if not unanimous support.

One of the proposals I co-authored is beneficial to those suffering from chronic diseases. The plan makes needed changes to step therapy – a policy requiring a patient to try and fail first on several medications before receiving their doctor-prescribed medication. If the doctor feels a certain prescription is going to work for the patient, this bill would prevent forcing the patient to try other medicines first. To me the plan is common sense and will keep prescription decisions between the doctors and their patients, not insurance companies.

This week the Minnesota Senate unveiled its bonding bill. Unfortunately, none of the items I’ve been lobbying for – HERO Center, SMART Center, and Hastings City Hall – are included. The House bill did include the HERO and SMART Centers, and I continue seeking other funding alternatives for Hastings City Hall.

Lawmakers also received some positive economic news this week. The Minnesota Office of Management and Budget announced that a forecast for the month of April showed incoming revenues greatly exceeded expectations by $252 million. These same folks had speculated earlier that Minnesota would only see a $329 million windfall for the rest of this fiscal year. Increased income tax collections led to the majority of the improved forecast.

Minnesota’s economy is strong and getting stronger, and it’s my belief that tax relief enacted at both the state and federal levels is making a major impact.

This week, Rep. Bob Loonan and I were asked to visit with and welcome Minnesota Commercial Real Estate professionals as part of their day at the Capitol. I was also able to visit with Hastings teachers Betsy Carroll, Christy Warner and Spencer Johnson who were lobbying for additional spending for schools.

I was honored to address folks from 2nd Harvest Heartland in the Capitol rotunda today to talk about hunger in Minnesota. Their bonding request for a new food shelf distribution center is in both the House and Senate bills, and now we need to get it across the finish line.

Cottage Grove Middle School has been awarded the 2018 Emerging Minnesota School of Character by the Synergy & Leadership Exchange. Rep. Keith Franke and I were able to congratulate school officials at the Character Recognition Awards ceremony at the Science Museum this week.

This week I was also pleased to have Mackenzie Swaim from Park High School join us at the Capitol. Mackenzie was serving as a page as part of the Minnesota House High School Page Program, and I hope she enjoyed her time in St. Paul.

If you’re looking for something to do this weekend, join me at Jessie Diggins Day in Afton! The event will give area residents a chance to celebrate her gold medal-winning performance and share their excitement.

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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There’s good news and bad news (5/4/2018)

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By Rep. Tony Jurgens, 5/4/2018

Hello from St. Paul,

This week the Minnesota House Capital Investment Committee unveiled its bonding proposal for this session, and from my perspective there’s good news and bad news.

The good news is funding for my Health and Emergency Response Occupations (HERO) Center proposal in Washington County was included, as was funding for the Dakota County SMART Center and $10 million for Veterans Affairs, some of which could help local residents at the Hastings Veterans Home.

The HERO Center legislation would allocate $9.9 million in state bonding proceeds towards its construction, with the rest being paid for by the cities of Cottage Grove and Woodbury. The HERO Center would also include a gun range which would be open to the public. In 2015, $1.45 million was secured for the project’s plan and design. With a site already selected, the lawmakers say construction could begin later this year if state bonding proceeds are secured.

This is a major step forward at the legislature, and fantastic news for the local officials who have been working for years on this project. The HERO Center proposal has not received a hearing in the Minnesota Senate, so we’ll be working overtime over the next two weeks to help convince Senate bonding bill negotiators about the project’s importance.

The bad news is funding was not included in the House proposal for the Hastings City Hall. That said, I have begun exploring other sources of money that could be used to help with needed repairs to the historic facility. I’ll be sure to keep you updated.

This week the Minnesota House approved a number of supplemental budget bills, all of which were approved with strong bipartisan support.

For example, on a 90-38 vote Republicans and Democrats approved legislation that helps our state conform to changes with the federal tax relief law and provides 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 under this bill.

By an 82-43 tally the House passed a bill that addressed health and human services needs as well as transportation priorities. Highlights of the health portion of the proposal include reducing health care costs, combating the opioid epidemic, protecting vulnerable adults, and preventing fraud and abuse of public programs. It also reinstates a looming seven percent cut for home and community-based service (HCBS) providers through the Disability Waiver Rate System. I’ve heard from many of you on this issue so I’m pleased we addressed it.

The transportation section utilizes surplus funds leveraged with trunk highway bonds to spend $385 million on statewide road and bridge needs this year.

You’ll recall last year the Legislature made the largest investment in roads and bridges in a decade, putting billions of dollars over the next ten years towards the state’s transportation needs without raising gas taxes or license tab fees. Unfortunately during budget negotiations with the Senate and Governor last session, that record total was reduced by $101 million. This year’s bill reinstates that $101 million for roads and bridges in addition to the proposed bonding.

It’s not a stretch to say that if this proposal becomes law, this would be a historic investment in transportation needs during a biennium.

Yesterday the House approved an environment proposal that continues to address the State of Minnesota’s $850 million settlement with 3M regarding water contaminated with perflurocarbons (PFC) in the East Metro.

Basically we are trying to work with all the stakeholders to ensure that this money goes to help people in our area with clean drinking water needs.

The Dayton administration and a number of Democratic lawmakers are attempting to turn this into a partisan political football by claiming our attempts will put the settlement in jeopardy.

First, 3M has already paid the settlement and the State has the money, less the $125 million that went to attorney’s fees. Also remember there are two parties in this lawsuit – 3M and the State of Minnesota. 3M has not reached out to me or anyone in the Minnesota House that I’m aware of to express concerns over the bill language. I have letters signed by the City of Cottage Grove and the City of Afton supporting what we’re doing. So who does that leave? The administration and the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency, which wants to have 100 percent control over these funds with no guidelines or parameters.

As I’ve stated before, I have a problem with some bureaucrats 20 years from now deciding that this settlement money should be used elsewhere in Minnesota and not exclusively for the people in my district that have contaminated water. A law would prevent any of this from happening.

To honor Arbor Day recently, all House members received a tree on the House floor – part of a longstanding tradition. Last weekend I took mine to a Cottage Grove Arbor Day event, and gave it to a pair of excited youngsters who then planted it at their home.

I was also pleased to attend the Community Conversation on Diversity, Equity and Inclusion that took place on Sunday at Hastings High School. There was great turnout and great conversation.

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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