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Letter: 2014 session has begun

This past week, I returned to the Capitol in St. Paul to start a new legislative session in the House of Representatives. In our first week alone, we approved $20 million in heating assistance and proposed $500 million in tax cuts for families and businesses across Minnesota.

The heating assistance, which passed unanimously out of the House, will help supplement the federal heating aid that is expected to run out by March 1 of this year. As I’m sure you’re aware, the propane and heating issues have been especially brutal this winter. That’s partly because it’s been our coldest winter in decades. But it’s also due to some unique problems that exist in our propane industry. While this $20 million will offer substantial help in the short term, we’re well aware that we need to do more work to fix the problems that might come up in the long term.

We continued our productive first week by proposing $500 million in tax cuts for Minnesota families and businesses. For hundreds of thousands of families, this will mean $200 million in tax cuts through federal conformity. It will mean $111 million for middle income married families through the standard deduction. It will mean $36 million for low income working families and $26.4 million for students and parents trying to pay for college and paying off student loans.

As we continue our work at the Legislature, I’m confident that we’ll be able to get several other key projects done. First, we’ll be looking to provide a pay increase for personal care attendants and long term care workers. Last session, for the first time in years, we provided a pay increase for nursing home workers. It only makes sense to give these incredibly important workers the same kind of increase. We’ll also be working on a bonding bill to fund local infrastructure and construction projects. In our area, Rep. John Persell and I will be pushing for projects at BSU, the Carnegie Library, and the Red Lake Schools amongst others. These projects will help create jobs in the short term and protect valuable assets in the long term. The bonding bill will likely include around $800 million in projects from around the state, so it may take some time to hammer out the details. But by the end of session, I’m confident that we’ll see funding for some local projects.

Rep. Roger Erickson

DFL - Baudette