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VIEWPOINT: Taxpayers are the big winners of the 2016 session

The Minnesota House of Representatives adjourned Sunday, May 22, and the big winners of the 2016 legislative session are Minnesota taxpayers.

From tax relief for college graduates and working families to Minnesota veterans and small businesses, the bipartisan tax relief passed in 2016 has something for just about everyone.

Coming into this year with a $900 million surplus, House Republicans stood firm saying that taxpayers funded the surplus and they should see the benefits of it. That's why I advocated strongly to return that money to you through tax relief. The House and Senate were able to come to an agreement that includes more than $500 million in ongoing and permanent tax relief — a big deal after more than $2 billion in new taxes were raised on hardworking taxpayers just a few years ago.

For Woodbury families, there is $150 million more for the working family tax credit and another $32 million to expand the child care tax credit, which could save families up to $960 a year.

Additionally, for people contributing to a 529 Savings Plan for their children's future college expenses, we have an additional $49 million in tax relief. What's more, for those already paying back student loans, we created a new first-of-its-kind tax credit for college graduates that could save Minnesotans up to $1,000 per year.

More than 18,000 Minnesota veterans would also see significant tax relief thanks to House Republican efforts this year. Military retirement pay would no longer be subject to state income tax. On top of that, we also increased the income eligibility threshold for Minnesota veterans and increased the total credit available to them from $750 to $1,000.

For businesses, investment and economic growth, there are also a number of key victories. First, we put $146 million into property tax relief for every small business in the state, exempting the first $100,000 of commercial-industrial property. Money for the angel investor tax credit will also help grow local good-paying jobs and spur investment in Minnesota companies.

In total, there is well over $800 million in meaningful tax relief for Minnesotans during the next three years, and I am glad we were able to pass this bipartisan legislation. As I write this, we are still waiting for Gov. Dayton to sign the bills, and I hope he will do so soon.

Where we unfortunately did not come to an agreement, however, was on a transportation and bonding bill. The Senate majority failed to pass what we thought was a bipartisan agreement in the last minutes of session, trying to amend funding for a controversial $1.79 billion light rail project onto the bill.

Passed on a strong bipartisan vote in the House, the transportation bonding bill had more than $700 million in funding for roads and bridges statewide, as well as funding for a provision I spearheaded for a safety improvement study at the I-94/494/694 interchange in Woodbury.

There is talk of a potential special session to return and pass that legislation, but we will have to see what the governor and legislative leaders decide.

In all, I am proud of the bipartisan work and accomplishments we have had during the past two years. From historic investments in our students and schools to long-term tax relief for families and businesses, I think there are a lot of positives that came out of the 2015-16 legislative session. It has been an honor to serve as your state representative over the past 1-1/2 years, and I will continue to advocate for the people and priorities of our community.

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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