The House passed two more major finance bills late Friday afternoon. Those bills included a comprehensive long range transportation funding plan and the next two years of funding for K-12 education.
The transportation bill puts the framework in place for a 10-year, $6 billion increase in transportation funding without raising the gas tax or increasing license tab fees. This includes $2.1 billion toward our transportation needs over the next two years, with an emphasis on roads and bridges.
Key points include:
- Added transportation funding is achieved by capturing revenue from existing auto-related sales tax streams including the sales tax from auto parts and rental cars, as well as the motor vehicle lease tax and dedicating them to a newly established Transportation Priorities Fund for roads and bridges. This part of the package is related to a bill I personally authored.
- In addition to increased funding for counties and municipalities, this bill would fund the entirety of MnDOT’s local bridge list (97 bridges) and fund $25 million for the successful Small Cities Assistance Program. Key highway infrastructure receives $300 million in one-time Corridors of Commerce funding for Fiscal Year 2018.
- Greater Minnesota transit will receive more than $2 million in increased funding.
The House also on Friday approved a K-12 finance bill which builds on last biennium’s historic investment in our students and schools. It combines $1.1 billion in increased funding with reforms, targeting dollars toward proven early learning initiatives that give families educational choice. The bill also advances policies that improve student learning by keeping the best teachers in the classroom.
Major provisions include:
- The $1.1 billion funding increase to the K-12 budget.
- Over $10 million in additional funding which I authored for school districts with higher than usual transportation costs.
- $22 million toward a new, targeted academic achievement initiative that funds before school, afterschool and summer programs to help low-income kids succeed who are falling behind their grade-level peers academically.
- More than $300 million for proven early learning programs.
- $40 million for Enhanced School Readiness funds to replace Voluntary Pre-K in 74 school districts.
- Approximately $2.3 million to implement the Professional Educator License and Standards Board to replace the troubled Board of Teaching, following recommendations by the OLA and Teacher Licensing Work Group.
- Continues GOP-led efforts to strengthen teacher recruitment and retention, especially in areas with teacher shortages.
- Keeping the best teachers in the classroom by repealing the last-in, first-out LIFO default in statute to give schools and local bargaining units more flexibility to negotiate mutually beneficial staff retention agreements. This aims to helps attract and keep new, effective and more diverse teachers in the classroom, while allowing districts to consider additional criteria beyond seniority.
As the week progresses, I will be updating you more frequently as we will be working through a number of additional bills. I apologize for these updates getting a bit lengthy, but we covering a lot of ground with each of these major agency finance bills.
If you haven’t already done so, please take a moment to participate in the legislative survey I am conducting online to receive additional input on the budget and other important issues. Click here for the survey.