Commentary: Rep. Steve Green looking to follow historic 2017 session with another big year
It seems like just yesterday the Republican-controlled Legislature was approving the largest package of tax relief for Minnesotans in nearly two decades and also making the largest investment in roads and bridges in state history without a gas tax increase.
That actually was back in May as we set the current two-year state budget through June of 2019. Tax reform and increased funding for roads and bridges are top priorities of mine and both were accomplished. The tax bill provides over $650 million in relief over the next two years and nearly $800 million in 2020-21. In the area of transportation, directing existing taxes on purchases of auto parts, etc., to roads and bridges will mean an influx of more than $300 million for roads and bridges during the current biennium alone.
Now, the Legislature now is returning to St. Paul for the start of the 2018 session and we look to do more good work for Minnesotans. With the budget set, our focus will turn to other issues — although we will be revisiting the subject of taxes.
The major tax reductions we enacted in Minnesota were followed by substantial changes at the federal level. Now, the state will be considering further action to match our guidelines with the feds. My main mission will be to analyze this from every angle in order to get the best deal possible for Minnesota taxpayers.
Another issue we will be taking on is fixing the disastrous rollout of the Minnesota Licensing and Registration System for automobiles. Minnesota taxpayers already have paid nearly $100 million over 10 years for a system that doesn't work and now the state is digging in their pockets for another $43 million.
Here's the bottom line: Minnesotans deserve to obtain licenses and conduct other vehicle-related business in a timely manner. We in the House will do whatever it takes to get this system running while also protecting taxpayers from suffering because of mismanagement by the Dayton administration.
As for bills I am personally authoring, one would allow counties to file a no net gain of state lands policy. In short, it states that if a county files for no net gain, state purchases of private property in that particular county must be met by the sale of equal acres within the county to a private party. This is a big deal in our region where more and more land is moving off the tax log and into the hands of government — leaving those of us in a shrinking tax base to absorb a bigger and bigger hit.
Another bill I am introducing is one of those I wish we didn't need, but it is clear that we do. My bill would criminalize misrepresenting an animal as a service animal. It targets those who knowingly represent that an animal is a service animal for the purpose of obtaining rights or privileges available to a blind or deaf person or a person with a physical or sensory disability.
Bad actors have taken advantage of the fact there is no simple way to verify whether a dog a legitimate service animal. Serious, dangerous consequences can result and it is time to make this a punishable offense.
I will share more on these and other issues as the session progresses. As always, your input is welcome at firstname.lastname@example.org.