Some of Eden Prairie’s legislators believe lawmakers will tackle transportation issues during the new session.
We contacted our local legislators about their priorities for the session, which began March 8, including their thoughts on taxes, parental leave and the bonding bill.
Local legislators include Sen. Melisa Franzen, DFL-49; Sen. David Hann, R-48; Rep. Jenifer Loon, R-48B; Rep. Paul Rosenthal, DFL-49B, and Rep. Yvonne Selcer, DFL-48A. This week’s issue includes responses via email from Franzen and Rosenthal. See the March 3 issue of the Eden Prairie News or visit our website for responses from Hann, Loon and Selcer.
Q: What are your expectations for the session? Will construction complicate matters?
A: Franzen: It is going to be a historically quick session beginning on March 8. Much of the groundwork for the session has been taking place over the interim. I expect the Legislature to pass bills related to bonding, transportation and taxes to expand economic development for businesses and prosperity for families. The construction taking place given the Capitol renovations will present logistical complications for the House of Representatives more than the Senate due to the new Senate building. Those visiting the Legislature should plan for some disruption mainly due to the closure of the Capitol building.
Rosenthal: Due to construction, this session will be one of the shortest in modern history. I expect much of the focus to be on passing a comprehensive transportation bill, a bill to provide relief to property taxpayers and small business owners, and a bonding bill for improvements of our state infrastructure.
Q. What should be done with a “surplus?”
A: Franzen: I am reaching out to my constituents for their input on what to do with the surplus: provide tax relief, save it or invest it. The Legislature is constitutionally obligated to reserve one-third of the surplus for the “rainy day” fund, which I voted for as the fiscally responsible thing to do. I am interested in a balanced approach of investing in our state’s infrastructure, improving health care access, and investing further in early childhood education in a targeted manner.
Rosenthal: Shoring up our budget reserve, some boosts in E-12 education, and targeted tax relief. Especially with 2016 being a “non budget” year, we should not use a period of economic recovery now as reason to make decisions which may jeopardize our fiscal health in a future economic downturn.
Q: What cuts to state taxes would you support?
A: Franzen: I am open to discuss all proposals for tax relief. I am carrying a School Readiness Childcare Tax Credit bill, which will benefit all families by providing support for childcare expenses. Minnesota is the third most expensive state in the nation for childcare ($900 a month on average). My bill encourages families to seek high-quality childcare and receive a tax credit.
Rosenthal: Property tax relief to homeowners, renters, and seniors should be at the top of the list. We should also look for ways to make certain taxes less burdensome for small business owners as they seek to make innovations, expand and make capital improvements, and hire certain Minnesotans such as veterans.
Q: Should the state increase the gas tax to pay for transportation projects?
A: Franzen: I am open to any sustainable, fair and responsible way of funding a multi-modal transportation infrastructure needs. While not necessarily popular, I have voted to increase the gas tax, but I support any responsible methods of funding. We must find agreement on a dedicated stream of funding to plan for projects 10 years and beyond. Using a portion of the surplus can begin projects, but we can’t rely on one-time dollars for funding long-term projects and future needs.
Rosenthal: I look forward to working on a bipartisan basis toward a comprehensive transportation package to fix our roads and bridges, which are in a serious state of disrepair. A gas tax increase will not be part of this solution in 2016.
Q: Do you support the governor’s proposal for parental leave for state employees?
A: Franzen: I believe the time has come to discuss this important issue. As a new mother, I understand the challenges of balancing work and family obligations with the birth of a new baby. A parent should not have to choose between their child and their job. A balanced parental leave policy would support families and would be an attractive benefit for employees.
Rosenthal: Our country is just one of three in the world where this benefit is not provided, and this is an overdue policy conversation. With such a significant number of dual-income families and single parents in Minnesota, this is a step in the right direction which may benefit 35,000 Minnesotans.
Q: What capital projects would you like to highlight that you support for inclusion in the bonding bill? Do you support funding for the Southwest LRT?
A: Franzen: I authored a bill to fund the state portion of the SWLRT. We have an opportunity to leverage federal dollars to assist in expanding our light rail system, and SWLRT is slated to receive 50 percent funding at the federal level. I believe this is an important way to bring back to Minnesota federal tax dollars collected in our state. The transit line investment can further expand economic opportunity for businesses and access for our community transit users in the west metro area. I am also carrying a bill to increase lane capacity on Highway 62 and a bonding request to study a land bridge over Highway 100 and Vernon Avenue in Edina.
Rosenthal: Transportation infrastructure, especially the 35W/494 interchange, maintenance and asset improvements at our higher education institutions, clean water infrastructure and investments in affordable housing. As it is included in the president’s federal budget, I support working together on a solution for Southwest LRT.
Q. What do you think should be done to bring Minnesota in compliance with federal REAL ID requirements?
A: Franzen: Resolving the REAL ID requirements is a priority for me this year. We need a solution that will ensure Minnesotans are able to board planes domestically and have access to federal buildings with REAL ID compliant identification cards.
Rosenthal: Minnesotans should not experience any more headaches surrounding airplane travel. When session begins, the Legislature should repeal the prohibition on state implementation of REAL ID and ensure, to the extent possible, Minnesotans won’t be on the hook for any increased costs of compliance.
Q. Are there any bills or proposals you have been working on that you want to make residents of your district aware of?
A: Franzen: I have been working to reduce barriers to medication access for patients due to a process known as Prior Authorization (PA). PA means your physician must request approval from your insurance company before you can access your prescribed medication. My bill will make it easier for patients to understand their prescription drug coverage and for prescribers to understand what medications insurance companies will cover.
Rosenthal: Leader Thissen and I have introduced a bipartisan small business proposal called “The Next Generation Mainstreet Act” which will aim to decrease audits, streamline tax filing for businesses and eliminate the transition from a current owner to a next generation owner.