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Viewpoint: Bipartisan budget a win for families and taxpayers

Rep. Kelly Fenton

State Rep. Kelly Fenton represents District 53B in the eastern Twin Cities metropolitan area.

The Legislature completed its work, sending a bipartisan budget to Gov. Mark Dayton who signed the bills into law late last month. In all, this was a productive and bipartisan session that produced a number of wins for Minnesotans including significant tax relief, a comprehensive transportation package focused on roads and bridges and an education bill that funds our schools and makes a number of meaningful reforms.

First, tax relief was a top priority for our community, as taxpayers wanted to see a portion of our significant surplus returned to them. I am pleased to share that House Republicans remained steadfast in their support of tax relief, and we passed a $650 million tax bill — the largest tax cut in nearly two decades — that will put more money back in the pockets of families, local businesses, college graduates with student loan debt and seniors. From families with day care expenses to aging Minnesotans receiving Social Security, there is something for just about everyone in that bill.

Next, as we worked to fund critical transportation projects statewide, the Legislature advanced a substantial transportation package that focuses on our roads and bridges, and will help reduce congestion in the metro. More important still, we were able to make these investments without asking Minnesotans to pay more at the pump or through license tab fee increases.

Third, for our students and schools we placed more money into every classroom across the state, increasing funding by $1.35 billion with a 2 percent and 2 percent increase to the per pupil funding formula. In addition, we also advanced a number of meaningful reforms including overhauling our broken teacher licensure system, funding alternative teacher preparation programs, and repealing the LIFO (last in first out) default in state statute so more than seniority can be considered when schools are forced to make difficult layoff decisions. What's more, a provision I spearheaded to protect the safety of kids by ensuring schools regularly test for lead in drinking water was also part of the education bill signed into law. Altogether, our education bill strives to ensure Minnesota schools continue to lead the nation, as we work to keep world-class educators in the classroom, tackle our state's achievement gap, and improve student learning.

Other highlights from budget bills signed into law include tuition freezes at Minnesota State Colleges and Universities campuses for the 2018-19 school year, streamlining permitting to make it more efficient, investing in veteran priorities, and funding the preservation and restoration of the Miller Barn in Woodbury.

Overall, this was a productive and bipartisan legislative session, and I believe the people of Minnesota will benefit from the budget and tax relief that was passed by the Legislature and signed into law.

As always, I welcome you to contact me if I can be of assistance to you on a matter of state government. Please don't hesitate to call 651-296-1147, email or set up an appointment at my office.

It is an honor and privilege to serve the people and priorities of Woodbury.