Erik Simonson, DFL-Duluth, represents District 7 in the Minnesota Senate. He may be contacted at (651) 296-4188.
- Member for
- 3 years 9 months
As I write this article it is in the final hours of the 2017 legislative session, and it is shaping up to look like the legislature will not complete their work on time. As cliché as it may sound, the majority party (GOP) is literally passing huge omnibus bills in the middle of the night, trying to shove bills through to beat the constitutional deadline.
It’s high time to build new bridges, both figuratively and literally.
In the 2016 general election, nearly 3 million Minnesotans turned out to vote, about 75 percent of eligible voters, the highest turnout in the nation. This is nothing new. Minnesota has been known as the "votingest state" for years and we take pride in the fact that we do our civic duty. Duluthians in particular are known for their high degree of civic engagement. I think it's something many of us are quite proud of.
It has been a challenging start to the legislative session for supporters of renewable energy initiatives. Minnesota has made incredible progress in recent years in its efforts to shift towards a cleaner power production and consumption portfolio. As a member of the Senate Energy and Utilities Committee, I have had to vote against a bill that eliminated the 2013 Made in Minnesota Solar incentive program and another that allowed Excel to fully circumvent the Public Utility Commission with regard to a replacement natural gas plant in Becker.
The year was 1936, and the United States Congress had just passed the Rural Electrification Act. That congressional action was prompted by President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, who one year earlier had created the Rural Electrification Administration. It was the post-Great Depression era and this was one of the President’s New Deal programs, designed in part to stimulate the American economy and lower the high rate of unemployment.
By most accounts, the 2017 legislative session is shaping up to be interesting. The GOP will now control both Minnesota legislative chambers. Their agenda will contrast sharply with that of Gov. Mark Dayton, who has announced no plans to run for another term in 2018. We have all watched the frustrating results play out in the waning days of the 2016 legislative session. Efforts to revive hope through a potential special session were lost as leadership personalities crashed head-on during negotiations.
Minnesota is like many other states in that it generates operating revenue from a combination of sources, not the least of which is a state tax on incomes, including pensions. As a member of the House Tax Committee for the last four years, I have had the opportunity to hear and research several proposals, including the concept of eliminating income tax on Social Security pensions.
With the recent release of the updated forecast from the Office of Minnesota Management and Budget, we can now see definitively that state's budget outlook is stable, despite slower economic growth than what was anticipated last November.
Nonmetro Minnesota is getting a little tired of the view from the back burner when it comes to the Minnesota Republican stance on local government aid (LGA). And rightly so. Despite increases to the program under Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party leadership in 2013, these programs have not kept pace with even the most modest inflation factors and remain stagnant at levels last seen in the early 2000s.
2015 is behind us and I am sure many of you have made resolutions for the New Year. By definition, a resolution is something that is resolved or corrected. When we commit to a resolution, we commit to correcting a problem. Sometimes issues take years to resolve or solutions are accomplished in stages. In the interest of efficiency, when you can correct a number of concerns at once, that generally becomes a priority resolution.