LEGISLATURE RE-PASSES FINANCE BILLS FOR COMPLETE STATE BUDGET
ST. PAUL – The Legislature re-passed three budget-related bills during a special session Friday and early Saturday. This time, Gov. Mark Dayton signed the bills into law, putting the final pieces in place on the state's new two-year plan.
The House and Senate re-passed the slightly modified versions of finance bills for K-12 education, jobs/energy and agriculture/environment. Gov. Mark Dayton had vetoed those bills after the regular session adjourned in May.
"It is nice to see a complete budget in place," said Rep. Dale Lueck, R-Aitkin. "In the end, it was more about tweaks than wholesale changes from what the governor vetoed in May. It was disappointing a special session was even necessary, but I am pleased we came to a reasonable agreement and provided certainty to Minnesotans."
The revised K-12 package increases funding by $125 million over what the Legislature passed the first time. School funding is increased by 2 percent in each 2016 and 2017. Provisions which specifically benefit Greater Minnesota included additional funding to help school districts maintain their facilities, and reform to address teacher shortages in rural regions.
The jobs/economic development bill includes unemployment assistance to workers impacted by layoffs on the Iron Range and also for workers impacted by the statewide avian influenza outbreak. Funding was included to address a shortage of workforce housing in Greater Minnesota. A $10.6 million appropriation to improve broadband access in Greater Minnesota also is included in the bill.
An important provision in the agriculture/environment package is $23 million dollars to combat the avian influenza outbreak which as ravaged Minnesota's turkey industry. The House passed two additional bills which included appropriations, but are not budget bills by name. Approximately $540 million from sales tax collected by Legacy Amendment was appropriated for wildlife habitat, environmental, and arts related projects. A $180 million capital investment bill was also included in the special session.
"I am proud that we are finally finished with this year’s session," Lueck said. "It was a team effort which included Sen. Carrie Ruud, R-Breezy Point, and Rep. Josh Heintzeman, R-Nisswa. We provided more funding for schools and nursing homes, and created a new stream of funding for roads and bridges in small towns. We also spared Minnesotans from the largest gas tax in state history. The job isn't done yet with transportation and tax reform still on my to-do list as we go forward."