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Legislative News and Views - Rep. Michael Nelson (DFL)

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Mid-Session Edition

Wednesday, April 1, 2015


Last week we left the House Floor having reached the half-way point of the legislative session.  We’ve wrapped up the work of policy committees and given the religious holidays, it’s a good time to take a break and catch up with our neighbors, our constituents, and our families.  We re-convene on Tuesday, April 7th and we’ll spend the next few weeks assembling budgets for the various state agencies.

House Republican Budget Priorities

Last week the State House, Senate, and Governor each unveiled budget proposals for the next two years based on the latest budget forecast.  I had hoped for a balanced approach in the House, but the Republican leaders showed us where their priorities really are.  If they had it their way, they’d spend $15 on tax giveaways for corporate special interests for every $1 they spend on education.  They would slash heath care spending by $1 billion, putting our nursing homes and programs for people with disabilities in dire straits.  At a time when we have a nearly $2 billion surplus, I can’t believe they would have such an unbalanced approach.

Let’s compare the three proposals:

Investment Category


State Senate

State House

E-12 Education

+ $694 million

+ $350 million

+ $157 million

Higher Education

+ $288 million

+ $205 million

+ $53 million

Tax Reductions

$138 million

$460 million

$ 2.26 billion

Health Care, Nursing Homes, Disability Services

+ $341 million

+ $341 million

- $1.15 billion

Environment/Agriculture/Jobs Programs

+ $82 million

+ $45 million

- $35 million


+ $26 million

+ $25 million

+ $148 million

Public Safety

+ $147 million

+ $117 million

+ $82 million

State Government/Veterans

+ $63 million

+ $52 million

- $67 million

Budget Reserve

+ $0

+ $250 million

+ 100 million

Total Net Spending    

$42.98 billion

$42.73 billion

$42.58 billion


This budget takes money from every area of the budget, including schools, to pay for as-yet-undetermined tax giveaways.  If these giveaways are anything like what they’ve proposed so far this session, they’ll go to corporate special interests and average Minnesotans won’t see much at all.  But we will see teachers laid off, tuition increase, cuts to nursing homes and services for people with disabilities.  To make things worse, many of the targets call for “savings and efficiencies” without defining what they’re going to cut.  I remember this trick from the Gov. Pawlenty years, it’s called funny money.

House Republican Transportation package released

House Republicans unveiled their new transportation funding package last week.  Their last package was more of a coin purse and didn’t seriously attempt to fix our roads.  I’m pleased to say they’ve finally acknowledged the scale of our roads crisis, and increased their package from a $2 billion/10 year plan to a $7 billion/10 year plan. 

But a total transportation package it is not.  In fact, it cuts transit for those of us who live in the metro.  This is a tough issue for our whole state, but generally, you don’t solve a statewide problem by pitting Minnesotan against Minnesotan.  It’s also a plan that’s funded by our old friend - funny money.  But this time our kids get to help come up with the funny money.

A large share of their “new” transportation money comes from just shifting money around.  $3.2 billion of their road money comes from taxes that are currently sent to the general fund – which is what we use to pay for schools, public safety, nursing homes, and care for people with disabilities.  This means there will be less money for these things in the future.  They also use money “found through efficiencies”.  In other words, funny money.

That’s not all, our kids will have to pay off the funny money because a lot of the new road money is just new debt.  For a generation, we haven’t used general bonding for road projects because road maintenance is an ongoing cost.  Roads always need fixing and we have a lot that will need to be fixed in the next 10 years and we should be finding ways to pay for it that won’t take decades.

MnSURE Complaints – No Solutions

We’re half way through the session, policy committees are supposed to have finished their work.  So far, all I hear from Republicans is complaints about MnSure – but no ideas to fix it, just ideas to dismantle it (which, by the way means we’d have to use Federal ObamaCare).  I can’t see how we would take health care away from Minnesotans trying to work their way into the middle class just to make things a little easier for corporations and special interests. 

As always I remain accessible and want to hear from you.  Feel free to contact me at 651-296-3751, or


Thank you for giving me the honor of serving you and our community,