As this is written on Friday, June 25, we are making progress on setting the state’s next two-year budget. While it may seem a slow and deliberate process to some, these are big bills that need to be finalized and put into the proper verbiage before action can be taken on them.
The Agriculture bill was one of the first to be passed, along with the Legacy proposal. Then, earlier this week, the multi-billion dollar transportation bill was passed by both the House and Senate. That bill was especially important to wrap up because hundreds of construction projects around the state would be forced to shut down had the bill not been passed before the June 30 deadline.
Transportation is important for our state’s economy, and we sometimes take it for granted. When one of our busy roads is shut down because of a detour, or when bad weather makes travel difficult or impossible, we realize just how important they are. This bill also does a good job of providing funding for local roads and bridges, as well as our smaller cities with under 5,000 population. The numbers below are estimates, but give a pretty good idea of how much money will be flowing to our local road authorities:
Small cities assistance – county summary
The ag bill was also solid. In addition to funding the department for the next two years, additional revenue was provided for mental health issues and farmer safety. Another key aspect of the bill gives a boost to the build-out of infrastructure for retail service stations to handle higher blends of ethanol in gasoline.
While some wanted to mandate the state move to an E-15 blend of gasoline to replace E-10 as our “regular gas,” many of our stations would not have been able to make that move. Because of EPA regulations, tanks and pumps, along with other equipment, must be certified to handle blends higher than E-10. And, for many outlets, the cost to upgrade is high.
This new program allocates $6 million to be awarded to stations in a competitive grant process, with the local station providing part of the funding. The Minnesota Corn Growers are also contributing to the program by adding $1 million to the total. It is also thought there could be federal dollars awarded at some point to add to the amount.
It also appears that the governor’s emergency powers could be coming to an end. A provision in the Housing bill passed Thursday provides a framework for ending the moratorium on evictions. Although it seems to be extended out too far, over 100 days, at least it should provide the means to start the process of ending the governor’s emergency powers.
Several large bills await action by the Legislature. K-12 education is on the calendar for Saturday, and the HHS bill also is expected to come to the floor soon. We could be in session next week as well, with the June 30th deadline to avoid a shutdown looming next Wednesday.
I will provide additional information as it becomes available as we work to complete a new state budget.