Volume 3 Issue 3
January 20th, 2017
A weekly message from your Senator
Dear Constituents and Friends,
The third week of session kicked off with an extra push from Governor Dayton and a collection of stories from Minnesotans about how immediate health insurance premium relief is needed. From farmers to self-employed software engineers, everyday Minnesotans shared their unique stories about the urgent need for health insurance premium relief. The Senate passed a premium relief bill last week. The House passed its own version of a premium relief bill Thursday. The Senate and House will meet in a conference committee to develop a final bill.
Floor sessions were relatively quiet this week, with more action being taken in committees. The Capital Investment Committee released its Bonding Bill – a near clone of the Senate Bonding Bill which was voted on last session. Looking ahead, next week is expected to be busier – with Governor Dayton kicking off the week with his State of the State address followed by the release of his 2018-2019 budget proposal.
My colleagues and I are busy drafting and introducing bills in the Senate. I am happy to have introduced a few bills aiming at ending hunger, S.F. 249 and reducing the burden of student debt in Minnesota, S.F. 165, (see below for more details). I appreciate the phone calls, visits and correspondence as we continue to frame the budget for the state and tackle important issues like insurance premium relief.
Senator Melisa Franzen
Student Loan Debt Reduction Focus of Legislation Introduced by DFL Senator
Two bills introduced this week in the Minnesota Senate will help Minnesota students and their families pay for the costs of higher education.
The Minnesota College Affordability for All Act will guarantee a tuition-free undergraduate public college and university education for Minnesota high school graduates whose families make less than $125,000 a year. The act makes both two- and four-year higher education programs tuition free for Minnesota families who qualify. After all existing grants are applied, the state will cover any remaining tuition.
The second bill would provide a college loan tax credit for students and families up to $5,000 based on income. The credit would apply for dependent students with parents filing jointly with incomes between $130,000 and $145,000. Students with independent tax status and household incomes between $65,000 and $95,000 annually would also qualify for the credit. The amount of the credit would decrease depending on income level.
Student loan debt continues to be a concern. The average student graduating with debt in Minnesota carries a balance of $31,579. This is the fifth highest in the country. Minnesota also ranks third highest with the proportion of students who have student debt – about 70 percent of students.
The legislation builds on Senate DFL initiatives passed previously to address student loan debt. Included were college tuition reduction and freezes, increased state grant funding, and a student loan refinancing program that so far has provided relief for 840 student loan borrowers.
Senate introduces $976 Million Bonding Bill
The Senate Capital Investment Committee is moving quickly, releasing a Bonding Bill on Thursday just three weeks into the start of session. The $976 million bill includes GO bonds and additional funding from a variety of sources. The bill closely mirrors the Senate bill which was voted on the floor during the 2016 session and supported by most DFL Senators. The committee plans on reviewing the bill next Tuesday, and the committee will vote on the bill next Thursday.
Regardless of the Senate’s actions, a Bonding Bill must originate in the House and they have been coy about the prospects of a bill this session. Additionally, any bill that passes the Legislature would need to earn the signature of Governor Dayton, who did not publicly weigh in on the Bonding Bill that failed to pass last session. It is likely that we will not know the fate of a Bonding Bill until the last weeks of the legislative session.