There’s no need to raise anyone’s taxes (4/26/2019)

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By Rep. Tony Jurgens, 4/26/2019

Hello from the State Capitol,

We had many late night floor sessions this week as budget bills began arriving on the House floor. These are the proposals that would fund all areas of state government.

Interestingly, many of these proposals mirror what Governor Walz had proposed in his budget earlier this session. This week, the governor’s revenue department analyzed the tax increases that had been proposed. It was bad news for low and middle income Minnesotans.

This tax incidence report found that the governor’s tax changes would increase the tax burden for Minnesotans making less than $45,000 by double digit percentages. It would also raise taxes on Minnesotans of every income level. Minnesota’s tax code would also become more regressive because the proposals would significantly increase low and middle-income Minnesotans’ tax burdens much more than those with higher incomes.

These proposals include a 70% increase in the gas tax as well as raising taxes on Minnesotan’s health care. Not included in the study is paid leave legislation that has been proposed by House majority, which would cost taxpayers another $1.6 billion over four years.

In the face of a $1 billion surplus, there’s no need to raise anyone’s taxes.

One of those bills, the health and human services finance bill, weighed in at twelve pounds and more than 1,100 pages.

In short, it will raise health care costs, cut funding for nursing homes, and allow rampant fraud to continue.

Included is an extension of the provider tax – also known as the sick tax because everyone that makes a doctor’s visit pays it – that adds more than $2 billion to the cost of Minnesotans’ health care over the next four years.

We attempted to make this bill better. For example, I supported 3 separate proposals that aimed at exempting cancer treatments, diabetes treatments, and pregnancy care from being taxed with their continuation of the sick tax. The House majority voted all of them down on party line votes.

The bill also cuts nursing home funding by $68 million due to changes in reimbursement rates, and did little to tackle fraud that’s been found in public programs like the Child Care Assistance Program (CCAP).

While, as you’d expect, the largest omnibus bill in the history of the Minnesota House did have some good provisions, the bad far outweighed the good in my opinion.

More omnibus bill will be debated in the days ahead.

Last weekend I was pleased to help plant some trees in Hastings at Riverwood Park in honor of Arbor Day.

I also joined thousands of other bikers and riders in taking part in the Flood Run, which benefits Gillette Children’s Hospital.

I had fewer visitors this week as we have been on the House floor by 9:00 AM and don’t finish until close to midnight every day, but I stepped out of the House chamber for a few minutes to visit with Dakota County Technical College students and faculty who stopped by for a Capitol visit. Thanks for coming!

Have a great weekend,
Tony

Representative Tony Jurgens
351 State Office Building
St. Paul, MN 55155
651-296-3135
E-mail: rep.tony.jurgens@house.mn

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Radio Interview (4/24/2019)

kdwaHere’s my latest KDWA InDepth radio program. We’ll be doing these on a weekly basis during the 2019 legislative session.

Today’s InDepth on KDWA Hastings, we talk about bills passed out of the House of Representatives, visits throughout the district and setting the record straight on securing bonding money for highway 316.

Listen to State Representative Tony Jurgens on InDepth radio conversation on KDWA.

Put your phone down when you’re behind the wheel (4/18/2019)

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By Rep. Tony Jurgens, 4/18/2019

Hello from St. Paul,

It won’t be long before you won’t be able to use your cell phone while driving unless it’s through hands-free operation.

Governor Walz has signed bipartisan hands-free legislation into law in hopes that it will reduce the number of accidents that occur due to drivers who pay more attention to their cell phones than the road.

Under current law, it is illegal to text while driving in Minnesota, but it is not illegal to type in a phone number or program a GPS system while behind the wheel. This legislation would allow voice activated cell phone use only, along with one-touch or headsets.

Current law makes it difficult to enforce because officers have no idea what you’re doing with your phone. Making it illegal to have a phone in your hands removes the guesswork, eliminates a distraction for drivers and ultimately will save lives and prevent accidents.

This legislation sends a strong message to the citizens of Minnesota to put their phones down when they’re behind the wheel. This measure is designed to improve safety and to keep a driver’s eyes on the road.

GOVERNMENT SPENDING BILLS MOVING FORWARD IN MINNESOTA HOUSE

Our House Democratic majority has moved forward several bills that would fund state government for the next two years. They will be debated on the House floor over several days, beginning on April 23.

Together, these bills total $50 billion in general fund spending – which would represent an increase in state spending of 11% from the current budget cycle. It would be the largest budget in Minnesota’s history.

Also worth noting: if these proposals became law, Minnesotans would pay $12 billion in new taxes over the next four years. This includes a well-publicized 20-cent per gallon gas tax increase that was initially proposed by Governor Walz.

There’s no doubt the House majority will approve this budget. The Minnesota Senate will soon pass a budget of its own and then both sides will need to reconcile their differences. It’s my hope that when the final compromise is reached, it will come back much less expensive than when it first left the House floor. With a $1 billion budget surplus, I believe these tax increases and significant, permanent spending increases are unnecessary.

PROVIDING INSURANCE COVERAGE FOR TWO RARE DISEASES

If I told you that a disease exists that impacts 1 out of every 200 kids, yet some health insurance companies don’t provide coverage for their treatment, would you believe it?

This sad but true story impacts children with PANS and PANDAS.

PANS occurs when an infection, environmental factors, and other possible triggers create a misdirected immune response resulting in inflammation on a child’s brain. In turn, the child quickly begins to exhibit life changing symptoms such as obsessive compulsive disorder, severe restrictive eating, anxiety, tics, personality changes, decline abilities in math and handwriting, sensory sensitivities, and more.

PANDAS syndrome occurs specifically following a strep infection, where a child experiences obsessive compulsive disorder and tics, or the symptoms worsen after acquiring strep.

Not long ago, a number of families came to the Capitol to share their stories and advocate for change. Legislation is now moving forward that requires all health plans provide coverage to Minnesota residents for PANDAS and PANS, which includes medication and behavioral therapies.

In 2017, Illinois became the first state requiring insurance coverage for PANDAS and PANS. Hopefully, Minnesota will soon follow suit.

Our Passover/Easter break gave me an opportunity to do something I love – read to kids. I used the time off as an opportunity to share my love of reading with kids of all ages throughout our communities.

At Grey Cloud Elementary in Cottage Grove, I was able to read “Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs” to Ms. Wilds’ kindergarten students.

“Polar Bear, Polar Bear What Do You Hear” was the story of choice for the 2 and 3 year olds during Toddler Storytime at the Park Grove Library.

The 3 to 5 year olds at the Newport Head Start Center in the Newport United Methodist Church loved the Dr. Suess book, “My, Oh My–A Butterfly!”

Thanks for all of these invitations to read to our kids! It was truly a pleasure.

On Wednesday, I was able to take part in the Randolph FFA Alumni Tractor Parade after being invited to attend by some local FFA students.

I got to drive this little 12hp 1947 Farmall Cub, which is similar to the Farmall B my Grandpa Bob taught me to drive on his farm in South Dakota when I was a kid. What a blast!

Washburn Center for Children offers therapeutic services to help children experiencing depression, anxiety, behavioral difficulties, trauma or other mental health challenges. I toured Washburn Center with CEO Tom Steinmetz today to see School Linked Mental Health Grants at work this week.

I have a bill that would increase state funding for the grants that Washburn and many other providers and schools around the state access to help kids.

Wishing you all a Happy Easter holiday,
Tony

Representative Tony Jurgens
351 State Office Building
St. Paul, MN 55155
651-296-3135
E-mail: rep.tony.jurgens@house.mn

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Radio Interview (4/17/2019)

kdwaHere’s my latest KDWA InDepth radio program. We’ll be doing these on a weekly basis during the 2019 legislative session.

Today’s InDepth on KDWA Hastings, we talk about meeting with parents of children who suffer from PANS/PANDAS, the tax bill and the record setting size of omnibus bills being compiled in the Minnesota House.

Listen to our InDepth radio conversation on KDWA.

Listen to our InDepth radio conversation with Kelly Casey on KDWA.

Hastings projects included in bonding proposal (4/15/2019)

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By Rep. Tony Jurgens, 4/15/2019

Hello from St. Paul,

The City of Hastings received some good news recently, as the Minnesota House Capital Investment Committee has included two bills I sponsored in its proposed $1.5 billion bonding proposal.

The bills would provide needed funding in order to help the city pay for construction costs relating to Highway 316 improvements as well as renovating its historic city hall building.

I’ve been working hard in the House to promote these projects so I’m pleased they were included in this capital investment plan. It’s definitely good news, but we still have a long way to go.

The Highway 316 project is moving forward as a result of an agreement I reached with MnDOT in 2017. My goal for the Highway 316 corridor agreement was to increase pedestrian safety, lower speeds and provide better ways to control traffic.

MnDOT’s plan, which has been endorsed by the Hastings City Council, would install roundabouts at Spiral Boulevard, as well as Tiffany and Tuttle drives, construct bike and pedestrian paths on both sides of the highway and add a center median.

The City has noted there is a roughly $1.5 million funding gap that needs to be rectified in order to complete the project. This bill would dedicate $1 million in general obligations bonds to help with construction costs relating to the creation of the bike and pedestrian paths along Highway 316.

The Hastings City Hall bill would provide $2 million in bonding proceeds to repair masonry, replace dome cupola roofs and decorative metal, make HVAC improvements and work on the foundation, among other needs. If approved, a $2.6 million investment from outside sources – such as the City of Hastings – would be needed in order to secure the state’s bonding proceeds.

So where do things go from here? A number of significant hurdles remain before this proposal could reach Governor Walz’s desk.

As there are dozens of projects included in the House capital investment bill, the Hastings proposals must first survive scrutiny from the House Ways and Means Committee as well as the full Minnesota House.

Then there’s the Minnesota Senate, which to date has shown no interest in moving a capital investment bill forward this year. Historically, the second year of the legislative biennium is recognized as the “bonding” year at the State Capitol. If the Senate does not agree to approve a capital investment bill this year, this House proposal will not move forward and the fate of the Hastings projects would have to wait until the 2020 session.

Despite the potential roadblocks, I’m pleased with the progress made with the Hastings bills in the Minnesota House. With both of my city hall and Highway 316 bills in the House capital investment plan, there is nothing more I can do on the House side other than continue to work with leadership and committee members to advocate for these projects then let the process play out. I am pleased House leadership recognized the importance of these bills, and my thanks go to the Hastings city officials who came to St. Paul and testified in favor of my proposals.

Not long ago, I did an interview with the South Washington County Telecommunications Commission regarding legislative issues. To watch the report, click here. (https://youtu.be/5s3-EbnqLAI)

To hear my most recent In Depth report on KDWA, please click here.(http://kdwa.com/wireready/indepthnews/16192_TonyJurgens_0410.mp3)

Congratulations to Ken Brittain on being named Cottage Grove Volunteer of the Year and thank you to everyone who volunteers their time to make our communities stronger. Ken’s list of involvement is a mile long including several boards and commissions we served on together.

Last week I joined Governor Tim Walz, Lt. Governor Peggy Flanagan, and Senator Karin Housley at Stillwater High School to hear from students, faculty, school board and staff on a variety of topics including the Peer Helper program where students help counsel each other. A number of Afton students in our district attend Stillwater High School, so I was pleased to make the trip.

Hastings constituent Dean Birnstengel visited with Minnesota Utility Investors.

Nurses including Jolene from Hastings and Michele stopped by my office to discuss safety issues in the nursing profession.

Members of Teamsters Local 320 visited recently, including Alston Dutchin and Maureen Acosta from Cottage Grove.

Hastings constituents and LIUNA Minnesota & North Dakota Local 563 members Diane McClain and James Mackey visited last week on Building Trades Day at the Capitol.

Kyrsten Wagner and Alix Paularena, Carpenters Local Union 322 members from Hastings, dropped by as part of Building Trades Day at the Capitol.

Regions Hospital Emergency Room doctors Dr. Jacob, left, and Dr. Alan Okada from Cottage Grove were at the Capitol to talk about issues they face including identifying those doctor shopping for opiates, mental illness and workplace safety.

Finally, PANS/PANDAS affects as many as 1 in 200 kids, some more severe than others. Families affected by this neurological disorder gathered at the Capitol recently to ask for help.

This is treatable and reversible with awareness, diagnosis and proper medication. PANDAS is brought on by strep or another infection with a sudden onset of intense anxiety, mood swings, OCD, and tics. The child can go from no symptoms to appearing autistic, but this is not a form of autism. In some cases antibiotics can reverse the symptoms but in more severe cases costly IVIG treatments are needed. 20/20 did a segment on Parker, which you can watch here (https://abcn.ws/2JFTeKB). His parents Brian and Natalie are pictured. As an update, Parker has improved but not without symptoms – yet.

Talk to you soon,
Tony

Representative Tony Jurgens
351 State Office Building
St. Paul, MN 55155
651-296-3135
E-mail: rep.tony.jurgens@house.mn

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