Published on Wednesday, 30 November -0001 00:00
Lawmakers concluded a successful 2008 legislative session with passage of a significant health care reform bill and permanent property tax relief for most Minnesotans. In addition, the legislature passed budget balancing bill that closed tax loopholes for foreign-operating companies, and provided needed funding for nursing homes and schools. I considered the 2007-2008 session a major success on the issues that matter most to Minnesotans. During the 2006 election we heard loud and clear that Minnesotans wanted to see something done about rising health care costs, struggling schools, and skyrocketing property taxes. We set an agenda focused on these bread and butter issues and we have delivered on each of them. Minnesotans deserve better schools, affordable health care, and reasonable property taxes, and that is what this session has been all about. The health care reform bill was the second passed by the legislature. Earlier this week the governor vetoed a similar health care reform bill, but the legislative leaders worked with the governor on a compromised bill. I served as vice chair of the Health Care Finance Committee. The need for health care reform was too important to give up after the governor vetoed the first health care reform bill. There is no greater issue requiring us to rise above partisan politics than our current health care crisis. Last year we made progress, insuring 30,000 kids, and we continued working year-round on a significant reform bill that changed the way we do health care in Minnesota. We stayed committed this session, reached common ground, and passed a health care bill that will make health care more accessible and affordable for Minnesotans. The health care reform bill adds 12,000 previously uninsured Minnesotans and sets an affordability scale so no Minnesotan pays more than 8.8 percent of their income on health care premiums. Along with health care reform, the legislature passed a property tax relief bill that delivers permanent property tax relief to most Minnesotans. The bill provides $60 in local property tax relief to cities and counties and included inflationary increases to help local cities and counties keep property taxes down in coming years. The bill also expands direct property tax relief to homeowners who quality for direct property tax refunds with a $25 million infusion into the program.
Property tax relief is finally on the way for Central Minnesota homeowners who have seen their property taxes escalate over the last five years. This bill provides balanced, permanent relief to the people that need this property tax reduction the most. It's important to come to agreement on a deal that balanced the budget, but was equally important to provide needed funding to schools and nursing homes. The budget bill includes a balanced, $51 per-pupil increase in funding to every school district in the state. It also provides an additional 2 percent cost-of-living-adjustment increase to nursing homes. In total, nursing homes will receive a 4 percent cost-of-living-adjustment increase next year. Our schools and nursing homes were among the hardest hit last time we faced a budget deficit and they are still struggling as a result. I am glad we learned our lesson and provided them the funding they desperately needed. With session coming to close, I look forward to returning home to discuss the results of the session with my constituents. We packed more results into this legislative session than any that I have been through so far. I look forward to sharing and discussing what we were able to accomplish with folks back home.