How the Northland will benefit from newly passed bills

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Today May 22nd is the last day of the Minnesota Legislative session and there are several bills headed to the governor’s desk after getting a green light from the house and senate over the weekend.

These include the bill to legalize recreational marijuana, the tax bill, and a nearly $8-billion-dollar transportation package. Democrats call the session “historic”, but republicans are unhappy with some legislations that would raise the state’s gas tax.

We spoke to four Northland legislators on how beneficial the approved bills will be for people living in the region.

First is Rep. Liz Olson, a democrat representing the Duluth area.

“It’s been a really incredible legislative session. We set out with big ambitious goals of what we could accomplish, we are near the end of the session and we’ve had a remarkably productive session. When we started we said the era of gridlock is over and that is true because we are passing all our budget bills. We are funding the state government and we are doing really great things for our community in Duluth, the Northeast and throughout Minnesota.”

Secondly is Senator Grant Hauschild, also a democrat representing the Arrowhead region.

“We are providing the largest tax relief package in the history of our state. That’s going to include providing Social Security tax relief for 85% of seniors and providing property tax relief. We’re going to do a child tax credit that is estimated to reduce child poverty by 33%. Wastewater projects in places like Babbitt and Rice Lake Community recreation facilities and places like International Falls and Hermantown and Trails in Grand Marais and various places. So, this is a really big deal and northern Minnesota is the benefactor.”

Republicans who are the minority in this session were largely sidelined on most contentious issues, for example the Northern Lights Express project. This is going to be a railway service between Duluth and the Twin-Cities.

Thirdly is Rep. Natalie Zeleznikar, a republican representing the city of Hermantown.

“First, the automobile taxes are going up and delivery tax fees are going up, and then the train is like almost $190 million. I’m currently in Minneapolis, Saint Paul, I’m talking to people and they’re not riding it because they don’t feel safe. On top of that, the democrats put in the bill today that they’re going to give young 18 to 25-year-old that are homeless in Minneapolis, Saint Paul, and Duluth up to $1,000 a month. I don’t think that’s the best way to do it.”

Lastly, is Senator Robert D. Farnsworth, a republican representing the Iron Range.

“The Democrats have been passing bills to increase taxes on gas tax and providing less tax relief. There isn’t a whole lot that I can say that they’ve done that will help people in northern Minnesota. Fortunately, we were able to get some money for nursing homes within the last couple of days and we negotiated for some bonding. So we’re going to have some projects in my district, which is going to be helpful. Those light rail projects will never provide the riders that they claim they will, which means they will always require a subsidy from the government. So, I was not supportive of that. Instead of the new train I think we could have spent that money on roads and bridges that people actually use.”