In the small hours of last Friday morning, the House passed the final bills in our state budget agreement, and those bill were signed by Governor Dayton on Tuesday of this week. Republicans in the legislature came to agreement on our budget bills with Governor Dayton, and were able to accomplish some significant conservative reforms this session.
Our Tax bill will provide $650 million in tax relief for our middle class, including $117 million in relief for Minnesota’s senior citizens by raising the income threshold for taxable social security income. Small businesses will see $95 million in relief by exempting the first $100,000 in property value from the extra tax on businesses and freezing the automatic inflator. Families saving for college using a 529 saving plan will also receive a deduction. There is also a provisions for our farmers that lightens the property tax burden they experience due to school referendums.
Our Transportation bill invests historic levels of funding into a 10 year plan to repair and build roads and bridges around the state. This is the largest transportation funding package we have ever passed in Minnesota without raising the gas tax or license tab fees. $16 million over the next two years is set aside for cities under 5,000 through the Small Cities Assistance program established last session.
For the Lake Mille Lacs area, our Jobs and Energy Omnibus bill included and extension of the Mille Lacs relief program for another year and set the reduction to a five percent loss. In the Capital Investment bill, $800,000 in state bonds were allocated to City of Isle for the Malone Island Bridge.
We followed huge investments in education last session with a historic investment this year. We were able to increase the per pupil funding formula by 2% in both years of the biennium. In addition, we accomplished a huge reform of our state teacher retention policy, known as “Last In, First, Out.” This will allow school districts to negotiate with their local bargaining units to decide what measures (such as merit and student outcomes) they will use to determine which teachers to let go and keep in the event of teacher layoffs, instead of only taking seniority into account as is the case currently.
The teacher licensure system was also completely restructured to provide transparency, clear expectations, and higher standards for educators wanting to work in Minnesota. Our reforms closed the book on a dysfunctional Board of Teaching, and replaced it with a new Professional Educator Licensing and Standards Board (PELSB) and merge with the licensing division at the Minnesota Department of Education.
Our current patchwork of licenses, exemptions, special permissions and waivers will be replaced with a transparent and rigorous tiered licensure structure that places new and more stringent minimum requirements for educational or professional experience into law. As a result, we will have not only have more educators in our classrooms, we will have more well-qualified teachers in our schools.
For Isle and Onamia, we will see a continuation of grants for voluntary pre-K education. In addition, a new program was created for pre-K called “Readiness Plus” which provides funding alongside relationships between private and public education providers, known as a mixed delivery system.
We instituted policies for innovation research zones and for career and technical innovation, in additional to career and technical consortia using education service cooperatives for students considering a career in the trades.
There is also an increase in Positive Behavior Intervention System (PBIS) funding, to encourage the use of character education with at risk children in our schools. We also passed measures redefining cultural competency education as a partnership between families and educators for a more holistic approach.
All these reforms, and more were accomplished this session, making it one of the most productive sessions in our state’s history for Republicans, even with a Democratic governor.
I look forward to being home in our district and sharing even more of what we accomplished this year with you.