VIEWPOINT: My priorities are tax relief, transportation and health care reform

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Viewpoint

The 90th Minnesota Legislature was officially sworn into office earlier this month, and we are set for a fast-paced and busy 2017 legislative session. This session we will work to solve some of the biggest problems facing Minnesotans, including addressing our state's health insurance crisis. We will also work to craft a responsible state budget that invests in our shared priorities, as well as pass meaningful tax relief for families and small businesses.

First, in early signs of bipartisan cooperation, the House and Senate worked to quickly pass federal tax conformity which provides $21.7 million in immediate tax relief to 220,000 Minnesota tax filers. This was important to get passed quickly to ensure that tax filing programs could be updated and people who file early don't face undue complications. I hope this bill will be the beginning of a larger middle-class tax package we pass later this year that will provide relief to families, seniors, college graduates and small businesses.

In addition to acting quickly on tax relief, House Republicans have also taken early steps to provide premium relief to Minnesotans facing skyrocketing health insurance costs. The 2017 Health Care Emergency Aid and Access bill (House File 1) will provide premium relief to thousands of Minnesotans who saw insurance prices on the individual market jump by 50 percent or more again this year. What's more, the bill also begins to reform our broken health care system, preserving access to care for those with serious conditions losing access to their doctors, improving transparency within the market and ending surprise billing for consumers.

Beginning to unravel our state's MNsure mess will be key to making health care more affordable for Minnesota families going forward, and House File 1 is the first step, providing both immediate financial relief as well as essential reforms.

Beyond health care and tax relief, transportation is an issue that will be on the table again during the 2017 session. Debate on how to fund transportation over the past two years indicated little appetite for a gas tax increase, and plans put forth by House Republicans in 2015 and 2016 showed we can make significant investments in road and bridge improvements without a harmful tax increase.

Furthermore, this session I am once again authoring legislation to fund a safety and improvement study for the interstates 494/694/94 interchange in Woodbury. This study, which is a priority for Washington County and many commuters, will help jumpstart this important local project.

Finally, many Minnesotans are concerned about real ID compliance and what that will mean for people flying domestically starting next year. House File 3, which has already begun moving through committees in the House, will make our state compliant with federal law and ensure that the U.S. Department of Homeland Security will allow citizens with a Minnesota-issued driver's license to fly domestically without need for an additional form of identification. House File 3 will provide a two-tier real ID system, allowing Minnesotans to opt-out of Real ID requirements if they choose, and will also cover costs if people have to renew to a real-ID compliant license before their license expires within a four-year period. I believe we will get this issue resolved quickly so that Minnesotans can continue to travel without facing any additional hassles and headaches.

As always, if you have ideas about what you would like to see happen this session, I welcome you to contact me. Please don't hesitate to call, email or stop by my office. It is an honor and privilege to serve the people and priorities of Woodbury.