The 2015 Legislative Session adjourned on Monday at midnight, right on schedule, as we completed our work and sent a budget to Governor Dayton to sign into law. With the current makeup of the legislature - a Democrat Senate and Republican House - we understood that neither chamber was going to accomplish everything they set out to do. Instead, we were able to work together to pass a budget that slows government’s growth and invests in what matters most to Minnesotans, all without raising taxes.
However, the governor is threatening vetoes, and on Thursday vetoed our bipartisan education bill because it does not include his universal pre-K (four-year-olds in school) proposal, a proposal that did not garner support in either the House or Senate.
This means that the governor will call a special session, even though I sent a letter to him indicating that we should talk (GOP House has about ten former teachers) before making such a drastic decision.
Regardless of the future of this bill, as chair of the Education Innovation Policy Committee I have been committed to ensuring that every child—regardless of zip code—has the opportunity to receive a world-class education. I am proud of the work that we did this session that will continue moving Minnesota toward this goal. Our education budget is a bipartisan agreement that puts kids first by partnering new funding with innovative reforms.
Notable provision in our education budget include:
Education is a top priority for all Minnesotans, so our budget continues our strong tradition to provide outstanding schools with great teachers here.
Health and Human Services spending makes up the next largest budget item. Our HHS budget continues providing critical services to those who need it most and works to bend the cost curve to ensure health care costs do not grow faster than the budgets of the Minnesota families who fund it.
The most encouraging portion of our HHS budget is $138 million for our rural nursing homes in order to implement a statewide rate or reimbursement—which will strongly assist nursing homes in Greater Minnesota.
Included in the jobs growth bill is $30,000 for Lake Mille Lacs Tourism. I hope the governor signs that bill quickly so the money gets released to our area which is in great need of ways to promote the lake and the area.
For our farmers and those working in the agriculture industry, our budget provides critical funds to address the avian flu outbreak that has been devastating turkey producers across the state as well as policies and funding to promote economic opportunities in agriculture.
Furthermore, our environment budget repeals the current Aquatic Invasive Species Trailer Decal law and replaces it with a requirement that the boat owner sign an affirmation stating he/she will abide by AIS laws.
Our State Government Finance budget brings needed reforms and additional oversight to state government agencies, limits spending increases, and ensures that Minnesota government is held accountable to hardworking taxpayers.
Finally, I am disappointed to report that we were unable to agree on a comprehensive transportation package. As you may remember, earlier this session the House passed a transportation package that would invest $7 billion into our roads and bridges over the next 10 years—all without raising taxes. Unfortunately the Senate and Governor Dayton were insistent that any transportation plan include a new gas tax. My colleagues and I stood strong against such an increase—one that is regressive in nature and would disproportionately harm middle to lower income Minnesotans.
However, we did pass a smaller package that includes funding for local road projects in communities that have populations of 5,000 or fewer residents. I am hopeful that we will address our transportation needs during next year’s session.
It has been an honor to serve as your state representative this session and I strongly encourage you to contact me over the interim to discuss ways that we can make state government work better for all Minnesotans.