Last night, Governor Walz, Senate Leader Gazelka and House Speaker Hortman finally announced a tentative global agreement on a new two-year state budget. While that is a step forward in most areas, details are not out yet. Here are some big picture items that are in the agreement:
I am relieved to see the governor and House DFL majority finally gave up their demand to hike the gas tax by 20 cents per gallon and increase tab fees.
Just as important to stopping the unwarranted gas tax hike was preventing the “highway robbery” of the statutorily dedicated road and bridge funding that comes from the sales tax on auto parts and repairs that we already pay.
Every year we produce cars that get better gas mileage, with some using little or no gasoline at all. The reality is we still must replace tires and repair those autos. It is critical that we broaden the funding base for transportation. Keeping the sales taxes we already pay on auto repairs going to the road and bridge fund does that.
There is also renewed funding for the state broadband program. That will continue the expansion of high-speed internet service to underserved and unserved areas of the state which includes major portions of Aitkin and Crow Wing County.
However, reinstating the health care provider tax remains problematic despite a long standing by-partisan agreement to end that tax. That action will add about $2 billion in health care costs for Minnesotan’s in the near term.
K12 education will continue to receive strong funding with a 2 percent increase on the per pupil school funding formula in each of the next two years.
With the global budget numbers finally coming forward late on Sunday and the constitutionally mandated adjournment at midnight Monday, a special session will be required to flesh out the details that were agreed upon.
When that will take place, and how many days a special session would last, has yet to be determined. Expect another update when those details are worked out.