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Legislative Update from Rep. Sondra Erickson
As I mentioned last week, most conference committees have reached agreements, and many of our budget bills have been signed by House and Senate conferees. The House has voted on the final passage of the Agriculture, Education, Environment, Health and Human Services, State Government Finance, Transportation and Tax budget bills. Some of these bills have already been passed by the Senate. Five budget bills were sent to the Governor for his signature. Unfortunately he has vetoed all five, and has expressed intention to veto all of the budget bills we have passed thus far.
Below are highlights from some of our final budget bill agreements with the Senate. The underlined points are items that were included in these bills specifically because they are priorities the Governor has expressed, and because we are making a sincere effort to find a reasonable middle-ground with him.
- Invests in our schools. Minnesota schools will see more than $1.1 billion in increased funding to ensure that every child in Minnesota has access to a great education.
- Places More Dollars in the Classroom. Focusing the vast majority of new funding on the per-pupil formula will ensure education resources are put where they’re most effective—in the classroom helping students and teachers.
- Commits to Early Education. Our littlest learners are prioritized thanks to more than $370 million in early education funding—including flexible funding for all schools with Pre-K programming.
- Tackles the Teacher Shortage. Key reforms and innovative grant programs will help schools retain the best teachers and address teacher shortages in Greater Minnesota by recruiting the next generation of educators.
- Keeps Kids Safe. Testing for lead in schools will ensure Minnesota kids have clean drinking water.
- Invests in Roads & Bridges. $5.35 billion in increased funding to fix our roads and bridges—without a harmful gas tax increase! Infusing much needed resources for our state highways, county roads, city streets and township roads, the bill also provides significant resources for small cities that currently do not receive constitutionally dedicated transportation revenues.
- Relieves Congestion. Drivers will spend less time in traffic due $350 million in new funding for the Corridors of Commerce Program, which focuses on adding lane capacity and congestion relief along our state’s busiest highways.
- Builds Safer Bridges & Rail Crossings. Drivers will travel safely with more than $25 million for the local bridge replacement program, improvements to rail safety, and critical safety upgrades at some of the most dangerous rail crossings across the state.
- Establishes Fair & Transparent Construction Process. A reformed, transparent process will ensure each road construction project is scored and ranked so everyone can see where their local projects stand in comparison to other projects statewide—fixing key issues identified by the Office of the Legislative Auditor.
- Restores Funding to Bus Transit. Ensuring continued bus service in the Metro area thanks to increased funding for cost-effective transit options.
Health and Human Services
- Protects Minnesota Seniors. Prioritizes the safety of our most vulnerable with increased investigations of elderly abuse complaints by the Office of Health Facilities Complaints.
- Fights the Opioid Epidemic. New prescription limits, and grants for prevention and treatment of opioid addiction will save lives and fight back against the rising opioid abuse epidemic.
- Reduces Waste, Fraud, and Abuse. Common-sense eligibility checks will prevent waste, fraud, and abuse in our public programs, saving taxpayers millions each year.
- Puts Money in Seniors’ Pockets. Reducing state taxes on social security will mean a raise for thousands of Minnesota senior citizens.
- Reduces the Tax Burden for Farmers. Property tax relief for farmers though a new school building bonds agricultural credit makes referendums more fair and reduces taxes for those who put food on our table.
- Makes College Affordable. A first-in-the-nation tax credit for student loan debt and new tax incentives for families saving for college will help lower the cost of higher education for Minnesota families.
- Reinvests in Hometown Businesses. Eliminating an unfair and automatic tax increase and providing relief from the extra property tax paid by businesses of all sizes will make Minnesota a better place to grow jobs across the state.
- Reduces the Cost of Childcare. The dependent care credit will put more money in the pockets of families with young children, helping to lower the increasing cost of childcare.
- Creates Efficient & Effective Government. Manageable reductions and increased reporting requirements will reduce the cost of state government for taxpayers and make it more accountable to the people it serves.
- Prioritizes Our Veterans. Keeping our promise to National Guard members through enhancing educational and job training opportunities and moving the State forward on gaining approval for new veterans' homes in Greater Minnesota.
I hope that Governor Dayton will come to the table and negotiate. We have made every effort to complete our work on-time, and in a public forum; the deciding factor in passing a state budget is now the Governor.
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