The special session to wrap up a new two-year state budget ended last week. While working together in the only divided legislature in the nation, and the pandemic adding a variety of complications to our work, I’m pleased we reached a bipartisan compromise that will help workers, students, families, and small businesses across our state recover from the challenges we’ve faced over the past year. Here’s an update on our work from the State Capitol.
It was an incredible honor to chair the House Agriculture Committee this year, which has traditionally operated in a bipartisan fashion. Our bipartisan Agriculture budget agreement included many key investments not only to help farmers navigate recent difficulties in the industry, but also strengthen the next generation of Agriculture. The budget includes increased funding for emerging farmer outreach at the Minnesota Department of Agriculture (MDA), the Urban and Youth Agriculture program, the Farm-to-School initiative, the Good Food Access program, the Ag Best Management Practices program (AgBMP), and new investments in small-scale meat processing. To help struggling farmers, the agreement increases investments in the Farm Advocate program, with $150,000 specifically targeted toward farm transitions. To better compensate advanced and renewable biochemical and biofuel producers, the budget increases bioincentive payments by $1.5 million per year. These are important investments to secure our energy needs as we look down the road to electric vehicles.
While it ended up included in the State Government budget instead of Agriculture, I’m proud we protected the Market Bucks program, which helps low-income Minnesotans leverage their nutrition benefits to make purchases at farmers markets. Everyone deserves access to fresh, nutritious food, and the program not only helps consumers, but helps farmers as well. More information on the legislation is available here.
The bipartisan E-12 Education budget delivers historic investments in Minnesota students to help them catch up on learning loss over the past year and achieve over the long term. The budget increases the per pupil funding formula by 2.45 percent this coming year and another 2 percent the following year. The budget also protects voluntary pre-K programming, helps local districts fund special education and English learner programming, and invests in strategies to recruit more teachers of color and American Indian teachers.
Minnesota students, teachers, and families experienced tremendous difficulties during the pandemic. All Minnesota children deserve a quality education from cradle to career, and our bipartisan education agreement makes big investments to help all of our students realize their full potential. A summary of the budget is available here.
Law enforcement professionals have impossible jobs and they need the resources to keep people safe. Meanwhile, lawmakers have had to balance that recognition with the desire on the part of many Minnesotans to strengthen accountability measures following a some senseless, high-profile tragedies. Over the past year, criminal justice reforms have received a great deal of attention at the State Capitol and our compromise Public Safety budget included critical funding increases for law enforcement, along with several measures to improve accountability and transparency. We delivered increased funding for Violent Crime Enforcement Teams, additional money for training, and salary increases for state troopers, DNR conservation officers, and Bureau of Criminal Apprehension agents.
Among many other things, our Public Safety budget also funded the Hometown Heroes Assistance Program, which will help firefighters diagnosed with cancer or heart disease, and education materials for firefighters on cancer, heart disease, and emotional trauma, including suicide prevention. More information on our Public Safety budget agreement is available here.
Thanks to President Biden and Democrats in Congress, Minnesota received the funding to both provide targeted tax cuts to workers and small businesses and fund our priorities in order to build out of the pandemic quickly. For workers who struggled over the past year, our bipartisan Taxes bill exempts pandemic unemployment insurance from state income taxes, and similarly exempts Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loan proceeds struggling businesses received. In another measure to help frontline workers who have sacrificed their health to keep us safe during the pandemic, the bill has $250 million worth of financial support for these heroes.
Locally, to help Carlton County construct a new jail, the Taxes bill includes my bill to authorize a local option sales tax. The bill also holds northern Minnesota counties harmless following a miscalculated property tax assessment on land owned by Enbridge. More information about this comprehensive piece of legislation is available here.
This update only scratches the surface of the work we accomplished for Minnesotans at the Capitol this year. House Public Information Services has many resources with other information available here.
Please don’t hesitate to contact me with your viewpoints, feedback, or if I can ever be of assistance. My email address is firstname.lastname@example.org and phone number at the Capitol is 651-296-4308. Feel free to be in touch any time.