It was a busy week at the Capitol as we spent many hours on the floor debating supplemental policy and finance bills. Last year we fully funded state agencies through June of 2017. The bills we worked on this week tweak agency budgets where needed, but do not completely redo the state’s current two-year budget.
Monday we passed a supplemental education policy and finance bill. We repurposed $56 million of unallocated funds into programs to help close the achievement gap, expand education related broadband technology, and resolve Minnesota's teacher shortage. The measure easily passed the House with bipartisan support, 84-46.
Wednesday we made adjustments in the agriculture, environment and natural resources, employment and economic development area. I was pleased to have my legislation included, which would provide $300,000 over two years to continue the Mille Lacs Tourism Council and Explore Minnesota efforts to enhance Mille Lacs Lake’s image as a first-class recreation destination area.
Other legislation I co-authored would establish a $2.3 million economic-relief program for businesses in the Mille Lacs Lake area affected by the changes in fishing regulations on the lake. It provides a variety of options for qualifying businesses, including a refund of all or part of the state general tax levy paid by Mille Lacs Lake area businesses.
Mille Lacs Lake is a key driver of our local economy. We can’t just cross our fingers and hope for the best. We need to support our local businesses as they work through this temporary downturn in the local economy.
Thursday we made important adjustments in the health and human services, state government finance, and public safety policy areas. A number of constituents have shared their stories with me about the unintended consequence of accepting Medical Assistance in order to comply with the federal requirement to carry health insurance or be fined by the federal government.
Our legislation will retroactively limit the state's ability to attach liens to estates for those between the age of 55 and 65 that accepted MA, provided they are not receiving institutional or related care.
The big three items remaining this session include a long-term transportation funding plan, tax reform and bonding. Next week we tackle more tweaks. Enjoy the weekend.