Lakeland Currents 1119 - 2018 Legislative Session Preview
Lakeland. Currents your public affairs program, for north-central Minnesota. Produced by Lakeland PBS with host Bethany, Wesley. Production. Funding from Lakeland currents is made possible by povitch of regional airports serving the region with daily flights to Minneapolis st. Paul International Airport, more information, available at momiji Airport organ, closed. Captioning, from Lakeland currents is sponsored by, Nisswa tax service tax. Preparation for businesses, and individuals, online at SWAT x.com. The. Minnesota, Legislature, will convene for its regular session on Tuesday, legislators. Will come together in st. Paul is the state faces, a projected deficit. Of a hundred and eighty eight million dollars based on a November economic, forecast an updated. Forecast is expected later this month tonight. I welcome to our table to area legislators, to discuss some of the issues and topics expected. To, be debated and perhaps acted, upon before the May 21st, deadline. Representative. Matt bliss a Republican, from Pennington, represents. District 5 a he. Is a small business owner serving, his first term and will be up for re-election this, fall, Bliss. Is the vice chair of the Veterans, Affairs Committee and, also serves on the Environment. And Natural Resources, policy. And Finance Committee the. Government, operations, and elections policy committee and a, subcommittee, and mining forestry and tourism. Senator. Justin Icahn a Republican, from Grand Rapids represents. District 5 he, also was a small business owner serving, his first term but as Senator will not be up for re-election until, 2020. Icon. Is the vice chair of the e12 Policy, Committee and also, serves on the following, committees capital. Investment, e 12, finance, Environment. And Natural Resources finance. And, Environment. And Natural Resources Policy. And legacy finance. Welcome. Thank, you for coming thanks, for having us this is a great opportunity our, intention, today is to kind of look forward to the session that is coming what people can expect to hear about and, here kind of debated but, then also as a part of that will probably touch on some of the things that we're done last, year okay so, first things first I'm sure in your eyes is you guys need a budget, you, know absolutely, if we don't at, least on the Senate side if we don't get funded by the end of February we're. The Senate's gonna pretty much be out of money we borrowed, some money from the legislative, coordinating committee in order to get to this point but, we do need governor Dayton to approve, the the legislative, budget in order to continue, on otherwise the session will probably end up having to stop but I think, there's a pretty favorable chance that we we, do get a budget sign that'll be the first order of business though, were. You worried to rio surprised when he vetoed, the budget last year I was, surprised he. Had greet all the the, items that were in the budgets and and, at the last minute he decided to veto our numbers, which. Really kind of put our. Staff our full-time staff both, partisan. And nonpartisan a, kind of an awkward situation didn't. Know how long their jobs were gonna be there and as a result we we, had quite a bit of turnover, in the house I don't know how the Senate did but we had a large turnover of people but, you guys were able to keep going right cuz you found other funds to kind of keep you afloat until you can pass hopefully, the budget then the other day is correct correct it's kind of a kind of a skeleton crew so to speak and that's why the Senate didn't do their bonding, capital, investment, tours throughout. The summer we, are working on those now serving on that committee and I'm actually doing that next week we're on our last little leg of our tour so we are able to see some of those projects. That are important, to the state and we were able to come through Bemidji, here a couple weeks ago and we had a really great capital. Investment tour here, all. Right so let's start moving to some of these topics the, first one we'll talk about is probably a big one taxes, last. Year your tax bill if I remember correctly was 600, or almost 650. Million right. In different, different savings over the next two years but. This year there's going to be some discussion, in terms of how to manage.
The Code in response to the federal corrective. A tax conformity bill, okay, so tell me what are you hearing what are you expecting to kind of be the main points down at the company well. I would say that a lot, of people were saying Minnesota was kind of a leader and some tax reform it was a couple decades since we had done tax reform, in the, state of Minnesota and we. Made a lot of big gains. Last year I mean we got four. Social Security income for. You know tax credits for students, money and payment. Lieu of taxes, and Indian Child Welfare Act to help the county business or small business owners. So we did a lot of really good things so the state of Minnesota really led and from. What I've been hearing they, would like us to continue, to be a leader we, need to at the bare minimum conform. With the federal government otherwise we're gonna see some tax increases, most. Likely considering, that Governor Dayton doesn't, like tax bills that was part of the reason our funding was vetoed as he didn't like the tax bill I don't, think we get any farther than that personally, but I think there is some desire for members of both sides of the aisle to try, to maybe push it a little farther and put, that money back in Minnesotans, pockets, so that way we can continue, to grow our economy because even though we see the economy growing a little bit nationally. It, hasn't jump-started. As much as it has in other states and I think there's probably some things we can do to help that along, one. Of the numbers that we've heard is the Minnesota Department of Revenue says that tax, collections will grow by nearly eight hundred and fifty million dollars in two, years if the if no changes made to the policy right correct yes so your goal is to change it so that that decreases. We. Want to make sure that the the people in, Minnesota aren't, negatively, impacted, by the, federal cuts. One. Of the things that the federal government has done is make. The. The. Tax. Credits. Or your, withholdings, your personal, exemptions, they've doubled them but they've taken away a lot of the. Deductions. In order to make up for it and unfortunately, I was I heard yesterday from a farmer if he turns in if, he trades in a combine, it's $100,000, trade and he has to not record that as income, which. Isn't a big deal because under the new federal policy, he can take 100% of that back off of his his, income but on the state level that doesn't. Come off of that so, it. That, could negatively impact him, and that's what we have to look at is to make sure that that that the good tax cuts that were put in place in Washington don't, negatively, impact us and we. Don't we don't need the extra 800 million dollars right now so we should, make, sure that it impacts, Minnesota's least. As possible you, say that well I mean at this time I know we're expecting a new forecast, in soon, but, you do have a deficit I mean you are looking at a deficit do you worry about cutting them back to the point where that will increase I did, I don't, the, last two months have come back over projections, I I think we'll be just fine I think that. The tax cuts that we made last year and the president's, tax cuts are starting to take effect and I think we'll be just fine and I think you're gonna be surprised pleasantly at the next, forecast. Similar. Feelings I completely, agree with that I do think we're probably gonna be in a surplus maybe not a lot but I do think we're gonna have a much better forecast, I agree with the the points that representative, bliss made we. Had some strong, indications, at it that it is gonna be better and you, know I'm hopeful for that but we'll see when the numbers come out one, of the things I want to kind of pull out from last year is there. Wasn't increase to local government aid you, had an increase of about 15 million. You. Are hearing from some cities and some lobbyists that they would like to revisit that and have that go up again this. Year what. Are your feelings on that and are you hearing from that is that something you're open to I can. Tell you that that's something I worked on last year and that's something that went through our tax bill that's a thing, that a lot of people don't realize that tax. Bills aren't just about tax, cuts you know it's sold as all its tax cuts for rich people or whatever but there's, a lot of other pieces at least in the Minnesota tax bill that go into that there's the, local government aid went in there the County program, Aid was in there the Indian Child Welfare Act money was in there and on and on there were several things that helped, fund local, governments, I think, there is some desire to continue to help local, governments especially in Greater Minnesota there's, some disparities, between, what, Greater Minnesota communities.
Get And the, Metro communities, so, there is some desire on in. Both chambers I think to continue. To further that it's just how much can we do again. Going into this tax bill that we're going to try to put together this year if we go much beyond that conformity, we run into the point where governor. Dayton's not willing to sign it just because he has a distaste, for tax bill so. It's. Hard to say for sure but I do think there is possibly. An opportunity, it's just a little smaller this year than in years coming forward yeah because I think what we've heard or what you know something if you've been reading you know coalition's, ask you to try to go back to those 2002, numbers and other I think it's 30 and a half million something like that but, you're saying you think it's probably a non-starter, for this, coming session I. Don't. Know about a non-starter, it's, the the. Appetite. For that kind of a bill is probably not there, and and if you look at the history you know 2002, is the absolute, peak you know of course we want to get back to the absolute peak but. But it has been growing over the past few years and I think you know we're, gonna make steady progress on it whether. Or not it's the 2002 levels wait. And see the. Discussion, either way the discussion will certainly be there just how, far we can take it yeah I want. To talk about bonding, it's an even-numbered year, which usually is your big bonding year last, year was an odd here and that you still had a bonding, bill but that was because it didn't get done the previous year correct so you're back to a bonding year so, last year you had about nearly, a billion, dollars in roads and bridges and some local projects, wastewater. Tracking systems what, are you hearing. This year we just had the bonding group up here to look at BSU specifically. A couple weeks ago we did we did the veterans home here as well a lot of excitement are on that project and then, we did the other side of the district about a week ago and I mean throughout, Senate District five there's a lot of priorities. And we saw a lot of those there's a lot of needs around he / which is like asset preservation for, the colleges there's, a large desire to help smaller, communities, in Greater Minnesota with, wastewater treatment needs as you mentioned, the, city of Deer River has that so. We'd be looking forward to helping with that, but, on the bonding it's.
Really Interesting to actually be on the committee I've kind, of referred to it sometimes as the wants and needs tour we've. Seen a lot of swimming pools and Civic Center's and, gymnasiums. Which. Don't. Not have merit, but there's a lot of projects like the Veterans Home that we should really be looking at that really serve our regional. And a statewide significance, that. That. Really matter to a larger, portion of the state and I think that's some of the intention, of the bonding bills because you. Know ultimately our kids are going to end up paying that debt that we're taking out to build some of these projects, so we need to be mindful, of that and and the price tag the governor came out with with one and a half billion I think is a little bit high in, order to get some of the Republican, members to go along with it it's gonna need to be under that billion dollar figure, again but. Sitting on that committee again I I think there's a large desire, for you know to do some things in higher ed and to, help smaller Minnesota, communities, out with like again the wastewater treatment type stuff so. Dayton's bill, from what I understand had a lot emphasis, on college and investments. In that way and less so on local, projects, so, how. Do you feel about that well. You know my. Main focus obviously is the Bemidji Walker area, and I know part, of the projects, that we have proposed. Up here is the heck's our building, and BSU, and and I think I believe, that's number two on the minutes. Priority, list and I think that's really going to go through you, know last year we tried to make, it geographically. Balanced, and heavy, on infrastructure, and and, I think that's kind of what we're going to focus on again this year and internally, like Justin, said you know try to keep it at a billion or under you. Know if you look closely, at the governor's numbers there's, a lot of just numbers a hundred, million for this, and it's just kind of a gray. Area that he just threw a number at so I think we. Can whittle away at that quite a lot and I don't think there's a lot of difference in the numbers earlier I think he patted it anytime you go into a negotiation you, want to pad a little bit to give away something so I think I really have a good feeling that will come through with something this year but you have a good feeling about getting some of those local, projects. Right. Okay both Matt and I are advocating. Heavily for, those projects I think we have a very good chance to get those in our bonding, bill especially the veterans home I want to mention because. We've talked about Hague sauer which is 22 and a half million for Hex our than some other buildings but then also you have red lake right red lake is looking for some money for a school. Improvement and that's that, would be macrocells, district, so, that would be a project he's been pushing. So I don't know a whole lot about that project, all. Right then let's move on toward, transportation. So, last, year you had 300, million for Road and bridge projects, last, year and you're hearing, of course people always want more so, what, do you expect for transportation. In terms of are you think there'll be anything to even discuss there no you said maybe just sticking to that conformity, for for. Tax issues well I'm tax issues it's gonna stick to conformity I don't think we're gonna we're, not going to raise any taxes, that's. That's, definitely. A non-starter, at least in the Senate I assume it is in the house as well, but.
We Do need to make sure we continue to dedicate those, funds like last year we we dedicated, some the, sales tax from like Auto Parts and stuff. Like that to make sure that went towards transportation I think we need to make sure some of that is permanent, we need to make sure, some of the additional like, auto tax. You pay when you buy your vehicle that kind of stuff is always dedicated, towards roads and bridges we, see that in different, agencies like in the DNR where you buy your fishing, license that goes to fishing you buy your deer hunting license that goes to deer, management and stuff like that I think, the. Intention of a lot of the tax payers in Minnesota is that we, use that money to go towards our roads and bridges and we've unfortunately rated. Those funds for many other things so I think we need to get back to that as a starter, I know a lot of people like to talk about additional, gas taxes, and stuff like that it's, a non-starter, for now I think that you know disproportionately. Affects lower income individuals and you, know being that our economy, hasn't fully recovered, yet I don't think that's a place we we want to go at this point not a place I'm interested, in going. So. Yeah we need to dedicate some more funds there may be some funding in the bonding bill for transportation. I don't know what that number looks like because there's a lot of competing projects, but there, will definitely be something in there almost transportation. And, I think we really want to have, the Department, of Transportation focus, more on congestion. And. Not you. Know maybe put. Bike paths along an artery, you know let's focus on the congestion those are the people that pay the taxes, for the roads let's let's make sure that goes for roads and congestion. Relief do. You believe it's hard to kind of get that balance between metro, and world projects when it comes to transportation do you feel like that's something that you, know is always kind of an uphill battle I mean we always hear you know media Southwest you know light rail light rail light rail and, up here probably. Not going to affect us much so how, do you go about having those conversations well. I was looking at an interesting thing I was actually looking at this earlier today at what light rail cost compared, in for, a mile compared, to like what a mile of four-lane highway costs up here light rail is about a hundred million a mile up. Here it's about 225. To 250, thousand, a mile if you're gonna build and Beltrami. Your caste or Itasca, County so, we could put in over a hundred miles of four-lane, road in Greater Minnesota for one, mile of light rail so. I'm glad this last year we kind of peel back on the light rail stuff you, know Greater Minnesota is not going to be paying for that anymore but to get back to your your. Question more there is definitely. A fight between what. The Metro gets in what Greater Minnesota gets, and Matt, and I are definitely fight. To get some more money up here with, the way the leadership, is now in the house and the Senate you've got senator gazelka who's, a greater Minnesota senator.
Who's The majority leader now you have Kurt daudt who's a greater Minnesota, representative so, they, do have that greater, focus on Greater Minnesota which. Greatly. Benefits, you, know Bemidji. Grand, Rapids all of our communities, up here so it is getting better but there's more work to be done, one. Of the other things that we've seen in recent weeks is, the. Possible revisiting, of toll, roads and, kind, of looking into that a little bit further right last year there was an order that MnDOT kind of study those, toll systems, and now that first reports out and now he's kind of turn it over to you guys to decide if it should be investigated further is. That something that you've heard a lot of discussion about yet or probably not I haven't, heard a whole lot of discussion about it you, know I lived. For a while when I was in the military in Virginia Beach and they had toll roads down there and you, know I can I can see the, some. Some, benefit, to them you know especially, on the main thoroughfares, through the the, city worth, don't. Take up the the main arteries but if you're gonna build more lanes have them toll roads and have the, pay for them that way so I I'd, be open to the discussion, I'd have to look at the finances, and the numbers and and just, you know I'm. Open to the discussion, and, that's something I haven't heard anything additional, yet maybe when we get into session they'll talk, about it but it's it's not something that that's really coming or in our realm yet yeah. Let's. Move forward to education, last year there was a lot of movement on education, so were you pretty proud of what was accomplished I mean do you think that's kind, of what you wanted I was very proud of it I was very proud as well the the teacher licensure, reform, was absolutely, huge again for Greater Minnesota, and. Now it's a tiered system, there's. Gonna be a new teacher, licensure, board that's that's that people, are getting appointed for that now and we're gonna go through a confirmation, process, for some of that but it's really going to allow schools. In Greater Minnesota that have a hard time recruiting teachers, to have some other options it's, gonna allow people that maybe, they went to school in North Dakota and didn't. Get their degree in Minnesota now that's going to give that person, an opportunity to, come, back to Bemidji come back to Grand Rapids and have an easier time getting into a school here it should help solve some of our teacher shortages, so I was, actually you. Really excited about the final product of that bill we. Would start it started being worked on before representative. Bliss and I even in got elected but you, know we we got to. Be able to be involved in some of the discussions, throughout session a little bit last year to help tweak it and I think it was a really good product that came out and. The additional funding that we got for the schools the two and two that, helps out that helps on a lot 2%, over two year to two. Years of two percent correct so it ends up being like what is it 245, a student, I think at the most or something yeah I think I, saw numbers Bemidji, get three, million 2.7. Million from digi Cass Lake beam I think got six hundred and seventy plus six, hundred seventy thousand plus Walker. Hackensack, akley was three hundred and sixty that, that helps a lot and you know even you. Know the transportation, sparsity, bill that we fought for in the House and Senate you know that helps out Bemidji, a lot it it was a drop, in the bucket but it's a drop and it's starting and. It's therefore it's, it's a permanent part of the calculation, now so well it'll always be, added to or it could always be just. Make, sure that said what it was okay so that's like where these school districts Bemidji in particular, so, large if they actually lose money transporting. Their kids versus, the money that they get from the state right the the the way the old calculation, worked is that as, Bemidji. I believe was Roseville, there's the number the school district they use same, number of students, much. Smaller, more compact area, and and Roseville was actually taking money from their transportation, budget and using it in their general fund where Bemidji had to take money from the general fund because they have such a large area to transport, so, what we did is I believe there was 80 80, schools in Minnesota that that was affecting and we, went through and we we tried to get the whole number in there but of course as time, went on it got whittled down I believe we're at 18% it, was the final number so.
That That's for me you're saying that because it's an actual line item, in the budget that, it's not a one-time right, in, the past they've gotten a one-time, funding, a bump but then the next year was gone we what we've done is it's it's there permanently and and, according, to the people that I've talked to in the school district that's something they've been working on for 10 years. And we. Were able to and, it was a fight it was a fight to get it in yeah. It. Got it was in and out and in and out and it finally ended up in in the last minute but yeah that's something we both fought hard for him being on education, I was able to be in the room for some of those discussions to make sure that that stayed in there because that was I think. The, to and to was probably one of the biggest things we heard from school districts overall but in Bemidji it was the transportation was, probably, just, barely above that is, that one of the topics so that kind of highlights kind of I don't. Wanna say gridlock, down at the state capitals but some of the problems like you have this it's, pretty obvious, right you have a winners and a losers from the transportation, budget system and. Yet you have legislators. That don't necessarily want to give up the money because it impacts, their it impacts. Their district so how do you kind, of navigate, that how do you hurt cross, those hurdles. You. Got you got to be bullheaded, and you can't take no for an answer and that's one, thing I learned I'm, a nice guy and I went down there generally, trying to be a nice guy and and, sometimes, you have to you know stick, your head into a room even though they don't want to see you and and you have to repeat. What you've already told them three or four times I would, agree with that sentiment, and it's just that, that entire job is about building relationships, and, you. Know in an education, being on both of those committees I spent a lot of time outside of our committees you know going to have lunch with the chair of the committee that kind of thing it to continue, to let them know what's. Important, to us up here and that those, little things go, a long way and so those. Are areas we tried to work hard on to make sure that we could get things like this transportation to stay in there all. Right, we touched on this a little bit earlier in the bonding bill but I kind, of want to pull it out because it's such a big issue out here and that's the veterans home we've. Actually done a full show on it so, you. Made some progress do you feel like you made progress I think we made a lot of progress I did, the governor is now addressing it when he puts out his budget. For the bonding, bill he specifically. Mentions. The, reason there was no veterans, homes in cuz it wasn't funded by it but he had kind of pointed. To it well, we it we. Had initially, put it in the the, last state. Govt's. And. And it had been in versions. Of bonding bills in the past, but but it's it's actually got out both leadership's, full attention and it's gettin, attention, from the governor now as well okay I think, the governor's comment, was they didn't have a location, yet which there's.
A Little bit offensive the people in this community and I completely agree with it because they've been working hard on this project for about ten years you, know they're they're ready to put shovels in the ground as soon as they get their money I mean this project, is ready to go on it's a great project of great regional. And state significance, I. Think we've probably made more progress, and I hope Matt agrees with me in the last year than probably, the previous eight years I, think there's probably a better chance than ever to actually see that Veterans Home be. Included, in a final bill there's, a, desire. From both bonding, chairs to see that there's a veteran's home in the bill so it's. Probably going to end up being just like the transportation. We just talked about it's going to be a fight till the end but you, know I would. Say it's probably a number one issue they they say all of the veterans homie how we know and that's good we're gonna keep that pressure on because it's I would say it's enough number one issue for me and I believe it is for representative, blesses absolutely. Let's. Move on to min, Lars which. Stands for the Minnesota licensing, and registration system. Kind. Of turned. Out to be a little bit of a rocky, launch, for that so I started off it wasn't gonna cost 93 million and now it's going to cost an additional 43. Million so what. Do you do with that well that's what they're requesting is another 43, million we're actually requesting, that's. Another one of those swag numbers I believe, that the government comes up with once in a while once once we actually start for asking, for details the numbers magically. Goes. Down you. Know at first before I get into any of the details I want to shout out to those county registrar's. Over there that that put up with it and have been doing it for a, while now, for. Us as a state to put them in that situation is just incomprehensible, and. Unforgivable. We've, this projects, been going on for about nine or ten years now and they. Said the the project manager, for that project said it was Green it was gold let's throw it out there and, it fell, flat and and one. Of the comments I heard just recently and it kind of stuck with me is we didn't think there could be another project in the state that made mnsure, rollout look good and, this is this I have. An IT background I'm, a certified project, manager in IT so this just kills. Me to watch what's happening with this and the, lack of response that we're getting from from. Certain people they put in a website now for comments that is actually, the. People the registrar's, can load. Particular. Problems and they do get addressed so they're working on it there's some people down there that are actually working our attic do, you feel like though that there's a path, to fixing, it the. Path needs to be more than just money that's for sure and I know I'm, not on transportation. As you mentioned but I I think they are really drilling down the, Senate actually set up a website for people to go and actually put, in their comments about it I think, there's a larger, issue here and I think there's probably a leadership, issue at, that state agency, and you. Had mentioned the shout-out to the deputy registrar's but I would say the dealers as well I mean there's a lot of dealers that are having a very very. Tough time and it falls back on their hands because the consumer, assumes that it's. Their fault when it's really not and we've we've created this terrible issue in min Lars as a state and I I think there is a pathway forward, and we're, definitely working, on it but there's going to be a lot of discussion, or on that this year, so. As we get to our final minutes here I do want to just ask you know what did you learn last year that's really going to help you do you think moving forward in the weeks and months to come here well I can, tell you just for myself one, of the things I learned is you. Have to advocate, yourself. For, your priorities, and you people. Down there have different priorities it's not that they're bad people or trying. To take. Stuff away from you but their priorities, are different than yours so if something is important, you have to go sluggish at stick your head in the door where you're not wanted and you, have to become that squeaky, wheel and that's what I've learned making, making. Relationships. Down there like you said go on to lunch with different different legislators, and even on the other side you know it's it's really powerful if you can get a bill with, bipartisan, support and, and it's, just making relationships and becoming, a lobbyist for your area I can.
Certainly Agree with math sentiment, and and I think the same and, for me one thing that was really surprising. When I when I got elected I always thought it was going to be Democrat, versus Republican running. Head and it's, not that at all it's rural versus Metro of course I work great with representative, bliss and Senator Aki and representative, grouse all over here we're all on the same side but on the other side of my district, it's the edge of the Iron Range so. I'm the farthest the farthest northeast Republicans, so on that side of the district I'm working with you, know senator Thomas Oni and representative, Mehta and some of those guys and it's, been important, to build relationships. With them being part of the range delegation, and understanding, their issues, there's, a lot of areas we're able to come together on because our areas, are so similar in so many ways that again, it's back to relationship. Building that's that's really what this job is is building relationships, and I've been working very hard on that throughout the last year just to make sure that keep. Building in fostering those so we can get stuff done that truly is good for the area not what. Is good for partisanship so well. Listen I want to thank you guys for coming on and talking with us let, us know what's coming up in the weeks and months to come I want, to thank you for tuning in and I also would encourage you to take advantage of using these email addresses on the bottom of the screen because these, two men represent, you and they'd like to hear from you so thank, you for tuning in please join me next time.