Jeremy Miller
Jeremy Miller

District 28 State Sen. Jeremy Miller, R-Winona, said the upcoming Minnesota legislative session, which started Tuesday, is anything but typical

“The 2017 session was historically productive, and we got so much work done, from the state budget to emergency health care relief, as well as Real ID and Sunday liquor sales,” Miller said. “We took care of a lot of policy issues and a $46 billion bipartisan budget.”

Miller feels this session’s agenda will be shorter and focus on three items, the first of which is tax conformity. The federal government passed a significant tax relief package that changes the process of filing federal taxes for taxpayers. The Legislature will have to bring Minnesota into conformity at the state level to ensure that filing will be as simple as possible.

“If we do nothing, Minnesotans will have a very complicated task while filling out their state income taxes,” Miller said. “Minnesota calculates their adjusted gross income a little differently than most other states. With the changes that were made by the federal government to federal tax returns, it’ll make things very complicated in Minnesota.”

The goal with tax conformity will be to streamline that process. Miller said they’ll also have opportunities to bring more tax relief to Minnesotans.

The second key item on Miller’s radar is fixing the vehicle MNLARS (License and Registration System) system. Miller said this is the topic he’s hearing about the most from constituents since the state rolled out the new license and registration system.

“This is the problem when government tries to do too much,” Miller said, “when they think they can do IT (information technology) like the experts in the private sector. What happened is similar to what we saw when MNsure was rolled out. The administration tried to do it internally and, when it finally came out, it was a disaster. We’re still trying to clean up that mess.”

Miller feels the administration didn’t learn its lesson after MNsure. There has been nothing but problems since MNLARS was first up and running. People are having a very difficult time getting their vehicles registered, getting titles transferred, and even getting tabs and drivers’ licenses.

“As of now, the state’s taxpayers have invested about $100 million into the system, and we just heard that they need another $43 million put into the system,” Miller said. “That’s absolutely ridiculous. However, it’s not the time to sit back and point fingers. We have to come in and fix it, and that’s what I’m committed to doing. I’m not sure what the answer is but we’re going to get to work on it.”

The third item on Miller’s radar is another bonding bill. Even though the Legislature passed a large bonding bill last year (the largest in the state’s history), it’s the even-numbered years in which the Legislature writes one. Miller has been in the Legislature for eight years and it has passed six bonding bills, which means the even-numbered requirement for bonding bills may be a thing of the past.

“A bonding bill can pass in the odd- or even-numbered years, depending on what the needs are around the state,” Miller said. “And there are infrastructure needs around the state. I would be supportive of a responsible bonding bill that focuses directly on infrastructure needs around the state.”

There are some funding requests in for several trail projects around Houston and Fillmore counties. Winona is also looking into funding for bonding projects, as well. But Miller thinks this year’s bonding bill will focus on core infrastructure projects, along with roads and bridges.

This year’s session runs from Feb. 20 through May 21.

“I’m looking forward to getting back to St. Paul, rolling up my sleeves, and getting right to work for the people of southeast Minnesota,” Miller said prior to the start of the session.