As many of you have heard by now, the state’s top leaders reached a budget agreement in the early hours of Saturday morning, opening the door for passage of the "lights-on " bill that ended the partial government shutdown.
Early in the session, when we first saw the drastic cuts the Governor wanted to make to education and health care, we understood the enormity of the task before us. This sharpened our focus and strengthened our commitment to doing what is right for the people of Minnesota.
As Democrats, our top priority this session was to address the financial distress of our schools that was caused by the Republican cuts two years ago. Because of our insistence, the funding formula for our schools is twice as big in this budget as in the Governor's original plan. Instead of the 2% funding for each of the next two years the Governor proposed, our schools will be receiving 4% each year. This is a billion dollar turn-around for our schools.
The Governor wanted to balance the budget by taking away the health insurance of nearly 40,000 working Minnesotans. We stood united in opposition to those cuts, and because of our diligence and commitment to affordable health care for all Minnesotans, these cuts are no longer on the table. Not only were the cuts stopped, we also were able to repeal the benefit cap, which drastically limited the help available for those dealing with serious illnesses or injuries.
There are other accomplishments in this budget that we worked hard for. Nursing home workers will receive a Cost of Living Adjustment, the first time in three years for most of them. And, even though the Governor vetoed the excellent transportation bill that was passed by both the House and Senate in May, we still were able to get a decent amount of funding in the final bill for transit and transportation.
Many of the details of this budget were worked on over the weekend, with the final votes scheduled for Wednesday. There is always the possibility that some things could change, but it is not expected that anything significant will be lost.
The partial government shutdown was harsh, wasteful and unnecessary. The House Democrats voted together eight times for the "lights on" bill, each time failing to get enough bipartisan votes to pass the measure. Still, compared to the last "do nothing" legislative session, I believe that this session, even with all of its problems, will be viewed as the session when we got a lot of good things done for Minnesotans. It took longer than it should have, but we achieved excellent results. State workers are back to doing the state's business, and state resources, such as drivers license bureaus and rest stops, are open again. Minnesota is again the state that works.
State Representative District 47B