In my last newsletter, I indicated the House was in the process of bringing omnibus finance bills to the floor for votes of the full body. With a package related to health, human services and early childhood moving through the floor on Monday, that initial round of budget bills now is complete.
The Senate also is wrapping up its first round of budget bills, which sets the stage for the full slate of conference committees to begin their efforts in resolving differences between what is proposed by the two bodies. As I have noted a number of times, the billions of dollars in tax increases set forth by the House majority appears to be the largest sticking point to clear up in the hopes of having a new two-year state budget in place before we are scheduled to adjourn May 17.
I remain hopeful the tax increases and a number of other concerning provisions in the House omnibus bills will fall by the wayside in conference committees. For example, the bill on health, human services and early childhood (H.F. 2128) that we voted on this week continues to expand government-run healthcare and imposes burdensome new mandates that drive up the cost of health care for Minnesota families.
Those are just some of the points of contention with that bill that led to the House minority opposing it. I hope this omnibus bill, along with the others, come back to the House floor in better shape than they left so we can provide bipartisan support for the next state budget.
One bill that did earn bipartisan approval in passing both bodies this week is a $7.8 million package to provide funding for public safety assistance costs in the Twin Cities.
The bill provides $1.5 million in funding to the Minnesota Department of Public Safety for the Emergency Management Assistance Compact to reimburse out-of-state law enforcement who traveled to the Twin Cities to provide assistance for the Chauvin trial. An additional $6.3 million is provided for State Patrol Trooper and DNR Conservation Officer expenses related to civil unrest.
House Republicans put up unanimous support for final passage of the bill and it was approved 107-25. It is good this bill passed to ensure we had the resources needed to keep our communities safe.
On a final note, it sounds like the governor will be easing up on restrictions he issued via executive orders in response to COVID-19. While we are waiting for the details, I am hopeful his announcement will include meaningful steps toward fully reopening our state. Infection rates are down, vaccination numbers are up and it would be good to see us move back as much to “normal” as we can.
Watch for more news from the House soon. We are entering a wait-and-see period of budget negotiations so there’s no telling what the next days and weeks may bring.