GOP lawmakers want to spend more money on Minnesota seniors

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The $1.9 billion state budget surplus is apparently burning a hole in the pockets of some Minnesota lawmakers.

Several Republican House members said Monday they want to use some of that extra money to increase spending on programs that help senior citizens, MPR News reports.

The lawmakers are calling their package of proposals the Caring for the Aging, Retiring, and Elderly (CARE) Act.

One of the sponsors, Rep. Joe Schomacker, R-Luverne, said at a news conference Monday the measures would make Minnesota a more "senior-friendly" state, according to MPR News.

And that's going to be a necessity, he says, since Minnesota's population is aging.

"Sixty-thousand Minnesotans will turn 65 in the next year, and before the end of the decade, there will be more seniors in Minnesota than K-12 age students," Schomacker said in a news release.

Social Security tax

One highlight of the package is the phase-out of state income taxes on Social Security income. That measure was passed last session by the Republican-controlled House, but wasn't included in the final budget agreement negotiated with Gov. Dayton, the Star Tribune notes.

Minnesota is one of only six states that still tax Social Security income, Rep. Tama Theis, R-St. Cloud, said, according to the Star Tribune.

The plan would phase out the tax over five years; it would cost the state $237 million in lost revenue in 2016-2017 and $641 million in the following two-year budget, according to the Forum News Service.

Other highlights

A few other proposals in the CARE package:

  • Allow life insurance policies to be converted into long-term care policies
  • Encourage schools to train more students to become Certified Nursing Assistants
  • Study ways that technology can improve seniors' lives, such as long-distance medical appointments
  • Make it easier to build "backyard senior cottages" on family property

Some of these proposals haven't been written down yet, and Schomacker didn't have estimates on how much they would cost, the Star Tribune notes. But he said the measures would be ready to be introduced in the next legislative session, which begins in March.

It's not clear how much momentum the CARE Act will have, however.

Just a few weeks ago, when the $1.9 billion surplus forecast came out, House Republican leaders said they would focus their efforts on increasing funding for roads and bridges, and cutting taxes.

Gov. Dayton and DFL legislative leaders have their own ideas about how they want to use some of the state's budget surplus, and you can find those details here.

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