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ST. PAUL – With the passage of four omnibus funding packages Wednesday, Minnesota’s budget has been set and the 2005 Special Session has come to a close. State Representative Bob Gunther (R-Fairmont) said approval of the K-12 Education, Health, Taxes and Transportation budgets were long overdue.
“It’s unfortunate that we had to go into overtime to wrap up the budget,” Gunther said. “Our final product prioritized our schools and nursing homes, as well as the taxpayers. If House Republicans hadn’t stepped in, we would be spending hundreds of millions more on the Senate-proposed welfare and human services programs.”
As part of the K-12 education agreement, $800 million in new funding has been established. The bill also includes a 4% increase in the per pupil formula during each of the next two years, $139.2 million in local levies, and $10 million in aid for early childhood programs. The bill was approved despite objections from House Democrats.
“Its sad that Minority Leader Matt Entenza flew around the state telling folks his caucus was responsible for creating new education funding, and then said he didn’t support how the funding was created,” Gunther said. “This hypocritical partisan complaining is part of the reason why we were stuck in a special session.”
Gunther said the provision in the Health package he was most pleased with, besides the fact that it spends $440 million less than what the Senate proposed, is the Cost of Living Adjustment for nursing home and long-term caregivers. The bill provides these workers a 2.26% salary increase in both 2006 and 2007.
“This was a top priority for House Republicans,” Gunther said. “Nursing home and long-term caregivers provide a great service to our most vulnerable adults, and their work often is underappreciated. It was important to show our appreciation to these dedicated employees.”
In addition, Gunther said the Transportation bill adds $6 million to rural transit projects, and the Tax bill adds $45 million to Local Government Aid programs.
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