For more information contact: Susie Merthan 651-296-2955
Last Friday, the legislature held a Special Session to conclude work that was left undone during the regular session. Like many of you, I was disappointed that a bipartisan compromise was not reached sooner, but I’m pleased that the session is now behind us and that I can spend time in our community.
Here is some information about the legislation we passed during the special session and the work that remains going forward.
Why did we need a Special Session?
On the final night of this year’s regular legislative session, the House Republican Majority and Governor Dayton were just $25 million apart in their proposals for funding education, and unfortunately, the House Majority refused to compromise. In addition, the House Majority rushed through an omnibus jobs and energy bill during the chaotic final moments of session, and passed a controversial environment and agriculture omnibus bill. All three were vetoed by Governor Dayton. A special session was required to pass these budget bills before July 1, 2015 or the state would have faced a partial government shutdown.
What happened with education in the final budget?
I am pleased that the final budget improved upon our investment in Minnesota’s kids and future. The initial budget passed by the House Republican Majority provided less than a 1% increase for Minnesota schools. This would have forced teacher layoffs and larger class sizes across the state. Since the regular session ended, Governor Dayton was successful in getting the House Republicans to agree to $125 million in further investments. This will help adequately fund classrooms (attempting to catch up with inflation adjustments - more on that another time) and provide some more opportunities for our earliest learners. Still, we could have done better. House Republicans resisted efforts by Governor Dayton to ensure all pre-kindergartners have access to a quality education in a voluntary program. It was disappointing to me that House Republicans were prepared to shut down state government over refusal to invest in education.
What else was resolved in the Special Session?
The legislature was able to improve the jobs and energy bill and fix some of the drafting errors that occurred in the rush to finish the regular session. In addition, the legislature passed an omnibus environment and agriculture bill that included legislation to address our state’s avian flu crisis. We also passed a small bonding bill, though a larger bonding bill is expected to be passed next session to invest in our infrastructure.
What didn’t get done this year?
Unfortunately, the legislature left much work undone. Fixing our state’s roads and bridges was a top priority for many, but a “lights on” transportation bill was all that was accomplished because the legislature could not agree on a way to fund our needed fixes to roads and bridges. Transportation was the expected key feature for the 2015 session, but that was left on the cutting room floor. Tuition at our public colleges and universities are also expected to go up next year due to underfunding in the higher education budget. The House Majority also failed to pass a tax bill this session—meaning no tax relief for businesses, residents or property was provided this year.
What should be our priority next year?
With a $1.9 billion surplus and growing economy, we missed many opportunities this session to improve our state for hardworking Minnesota families. We should look for ways to make college more affordable and reduce student debt, pass a bipartisan transportation compromise that will fix our state’s transportation systems, and continue to improve our state’s world class education system for all kids.
What will I be doing during the interim?
My “to do” list includes several approaches to justice issues for our communities; early childhood nutrition and access to ECFE; education policy; transportation and public safety; government efficiency and accountability; and always, creating a more respectful and collaborative legislative culture.
How can you reach me?
Please contact me anytime to share your views on special session legislation or any other state issues. I appreciate hearing from you.