On June 12, the legislature held a Special Session to conclude work that was left undone during the regular session. Like many of you, I was frustrated that a special session was necessary and disappointed that a bipartisan compromise was not reached sooner.
Below is a summary of the legislation we passed during the special session and a summary of issues that need to be addressed when we convene in 2016.
Why did we need a Special Session?
The biggest sticking points in the regular session were the level of funding for education along with the omnibus jobs and energy bill, and the 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, to avoid 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 students and ultimately Minnesota's 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 provide more opportunities for our earliest learners. Still, we could have done better. House Republicans resisted efforts by Governor Dayton to ensure that all pre-kindergartners have access to a quality education.
What else was resolved in the Special Session?
The legislature also passed a jobs and energy bill, an environment and agriculture finance bill, and a small bonding bill that includes a handful of infrastructure projects throughout the state, including $4.7 million for the Vicksburg Lane Railroad Crossing in Plymouth. Rail traffic and safety issues have been on the minds of many in our community, and I was pleased that this rail crossing project was prioritized in the bonding bill.
Looking to the future
Unfortunately, some critical issues for our residents did not get resolved. 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 the much-needed fixes to roads and bridges. The House Republican Majority rejected many of the ideas proposed by the DFL Minority. They severely underfunded investments in broadband infrastructure and railroad safety. And, they failed to deliver meaningful tax relief for homeowners. Tuition at our public colleges and universities is expected to go up next year due to the Republicans underfunding the state higher education budget. What makes some of these failures especially frustrating is that House Republicans insisted on keeping nearly $1 billion of our state’s surplus on the state’s bottom line for next session for potential tax giveaways, geared largely for corporate special interests.
What should be our priority next year?
With a $1.9 billion surplus and growing economy, we missed opportunities this session to make investments that would help improve the state. I believe our agenda next session should be geared toward issues that help hardworking Minnesotans whose priorities were not answered this session. 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 system, improve workplace conditions for families and workers, and continue to improve our state’s education system for all students.
How can you reach me?
You can continue to reach me throughout the interim when the legislature is not in session. We have more work to do next session and I want to hear your input and ideas. I can be reached by phone at 651-296-4255 or by email at email@example.com .