The 2014 session is moving along at a brisk pace. This year, we had a later start than usual and have a shorter amount of time to get our work done. Already there are some great things that my colleagues and I have been able to pass and I am looking forward to getting even more done in the second half of the session.
This session we quickly and efficiently put together and passed a major tax bill. Thanks to a budget surplus of $1.2 billion we put together a well-balanced tax bill that includes federal conformity and repeals the business to business taxes. Together these tax reforms will offer approximately $443 million in relief for hardworking families, businesses and students.
As Chair of the Senate Commerce Committee, I held several hearings to learn about the concerns people had about the business to business taxes. Last year, we passed these taxes to ensure a well-balanced package that allowed us to make important investments in education, local government aid and our other priorities. As our economy continues to improve and outpaces the rest of the country, we were able to reconsider the need for these taxes. After our hearings and because of our budget surplus, it made sense to repeal these taxes without jeopardizing our long term economic outlook.
In addition to these repeals, we were able to find opportunity to invest in some proven job creating methods like the Angel Investment Tax Credit. In 2012 this program spurred over $72 million in private investment, at a cost to the state of only $12 million. Now we are expanding this credit and making it even better by ensuring Greater Minnesota businesses and those owned by women and minorities have a better shot at benefitting from these investments.
The Capital Investment bill – often called the bonding bill – will soon take center stage. Bonding projects in the past have helped build the Xcel Energy Center, renovated and remodeled our colleges and universities and rebuilt our infrastructure.
Earlier this winter, the Senate Capital Investment Committee came to Hastings and heard presentations on several local bonding proposals which included several shovel ready projects that I would like to see in a final omnibus bonding bill.
One is for a storm water pumping station at Seidl’s Lake in South St. Paul. The popular trail around the lake is underwater much of the season due to fluctuations in its water level of 15 feet from spring to fall. With the completion of a pumping station to manage this water, people could enjoy the lake without worries about flooding. Also, by being able to manage the water levels, even more recreation opportunities would be available.
A second project is the request for continued study and preparation for the Robert Street Transitway, a priority of mine for many years. Robert Street is a major corridor for commerce and deserves to be expanded to meet future demands. By increasing our transit on this street, there will be more economic opportunity and growth in this important region. In the future, it’d be great to see this Transitway connect all the way to Union Depot in St. Paul.
I’m also carrying legislation on the North Urban Regional Trail (NURT). With the completion of this trail system, Hastings to Minneapolis will be connected by trails for pedestrians and bikers. Currently this route goes right through Robert Street, a dangerous situation for bikers and pedestrians. With the building of a bridge over the street near Wentworth Avenue, this dangerous situation will be addressed.
One other project that I’ve been a key supporter of for many years is Heritage Village Park in Inver Grove Heights. The request this year would build off the success of previous state bonding funds for the historic Swing Bridge at the park. The spot now proves to be a popular destination for wedding photos and graduation photos. With these improvements, the park could become even more of a destination.
As we continue to move forward this year, the days at the capitol will continue to be busy as we try to get as much done before our May 19th adjournment or earlier.
For information on this or any legislation, please contact Sen. Jim Metzen at 651-296-4370 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.