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VIEWPOINT: Surplus means my No. 1 priority is tax relief

Minnesotans received some great news earlier this month — the state is facing a nearly $1.9 billion surplus and Gov. Mark Dayton has dropped his shortsighted proposal to increase the gas tax. Even better news still, there is a healthy appetite at the Capitol to return much of that surplus to hardworking middle-class taxpayers, as well as invest in our shared priorities.

On Dec. 3, the Minnesota Office of Management and Budget released their economic forecast, revealing our state’s projected surplus is $1.871 billion for fiscal years 2016-17. Thanks to House Republican fiscal restraint last session, money was left on the bottom line and, under state law, $594 million will go into the state budget reserve. That leaves just over $1.2 billion for legislators to delegate next year, and my No. 1 priority is tax relief.

This surplus shows state government has collected too much from Woodbury taxpayers, and I would like to see much of that money returned to you. Last session, I supported a tax bill that would direct $2 billion in tax relief to middle-class families, college students, aging adults, veterans and job creators. With provisions like a new Minnesota personal or dependent tax exemption, many Woodbury families could have seen more than $500 in savings if that legislation had been signed into law.

Our tax plan called for phasing out the social security tax for people living on a fixed income, eliminating the income tax on military pensions for our veterans, expanding student loan debt relief and increasing pre-kindergarten education deductions to name a few, and would have positively impacted individuals and families throughout our community. With a significant surplus available, it’s time we ensure that your family budget is a government priority and we return your hard-earned money through tax relief.

But of course, comprehensive tax legislation was not the only thing left on the table at the end of last session. Thanks to the governor’s previous insistence on a regressive gas tax increase earlier this year, a transportation package to fund road and bridge improvements was blocked by him and put on hold until 2016.

Improving our infrastructure is a top priority for our community, and I will be advocating for my legislation again next session that funds a safety study at the interstates 494/694/94 interchange in Woodbury, which will help jumpstart much-needed improvements to that stretch of highway.

Additionally, House Republicans advanced a long-term, 10-year, $7 billion transportation plan last session that would have fixed more than 15,000 lane miles of road and 330 bridges statewide — all without a tax increase. It received bipartisan support, and I would like to see that pushed forward again next year and signed into law.

Overall, with a sizeable surplus and a bipartisan effort to invest in our shared priorities, there is a lot about which to be optimistic heading into next spring’s legislative session. As always, if you have ideas about what you would like to see happen next session, I welcome you to share your thoughts with me. Your input is valuable and guides me toward supporting legislation that best serves our community. Please don’t hesitate to call, email, or stop by my office. It is an honor to represent the people and priorities of Woodbury.

Kelly Fenton represents Minnesota House of Representatives District 53B. She can be reached at 651-296-1147 or rep.kelly.fenton@house.mn.

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