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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