The $329 million surplus (3/2/2018)

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By Rep. Tony Jurgens, 3/2/2018

Hello from St. Paul,

There’s good news to report from the State Capitol, as Minnesota’s February state budget forecast shows a positive balance.

The $329 million surplus is much different than the $188 million deficit projection outlined by those same analysts in November.

Some die-hard partisans attempted to spin that November projection into a sky-is-falling economic crisis in Minnesota, which was truly short-sighted. That forecast assumed Congress would not approve a tax relief bill and would not reauthorize funding for the Children’s Health Insurance Program. Weeks later, Congress approved both.

With this in mind, I’m expecting to see some tax relief and tax conformity proposals coming from the Minnesota House in the near future. The residents I’ve spoken with seem very pleased with the tax relief that has been given to them at the state and federal level over the past year, and I’m hopeful we now have another opportunity to let middle-class Minnesotans keep more of their earnings.

In other news, legislation has now been offered that would require the Dayton administration to find the $10 million needed to keep Minnesota’s new drivers’ licensing and registration system program afloat.

The proposal comes in the wake of a KMSP-TV investigative report that suggests the administration ignored several warning signs and rolled out the new system despite knowledge that it would not function properly.

Another bill is also being introduced that directs the Commissioner of Public Safety to study the feasibility of using a commercial vendor to “develop, deploy, and maintain” a system to replace MNLARS, instead of relying on the same government agency that has struggled to fix the problem.

On Tuesday, the Dayton administration told lawmakers that the nearly $100 million already spent on the program only created a “half-built system.” They are now requesting another $43 million in taxpayer dollars, with $10 million of that amount needed immediately in order to “prevent layoffs and canceled contracts.”

Whatever the final solution is, I know many of you continue to be frustrated by the delays and problems with vehicle title transfers and renewing your license tabs, so we will keep pushing the administration towards a solution. Stay tuned.

I had plenty of good visits in my Capitol office this week. University of Minnesota pharmacy students stopped by to share their input on legislation, including Megan from Hastings.

Constituent Mary Nehring also stopped in. She was advocating for the National Multiple Sclerosis Society and discussed proposals that would help people suffering with MS gain improved access to the medications they need.

On Wednesday morning I visited the Hastings Bus Company as part of Minnesota School Bus Driver Appreciation Day in order to thank employees for their service.

I enjoyed a visit from St. Croix Valley Area Learning Center students and faculty, who joined me for a couple of hours and experienced a day in the life of a state lawmaker.

Y-Day at the Capitol gave me an opportunity to visit with folks from the Hastings YMCA. They included Youth in Government students Meghan Rowan and Hayden Schutt, along with Amy and Derrick.

It was also Minnesota Occupational Therapy Day at the Capitol recently. Jenna from Hastings was one of the occupational therapy students who stopped by.

Constituents Aaron Benson and Matthew Williams were in St. Paul to advocate for athletic trainer licensure on behalf of the Minnesota Athletic Trainers Association.

Have a good weekend,

Representative Tony Jurgens
523 State Office Building
100 Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd.
Saint Paul, Minnesota 55155

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