SAINT PAUL, Minn. – The Minnesota House wrapped up a one-day special session early Saturday morning after approving a new two-year state budget. The compromise budget increases investments in education, protects funding for health care, and improves economic security for Minnesotans.
“Overall, this is a good budget for Minnesotans. We increase investments in our students, protect health care for Minnesotans, and cut taxes for middle-class families,” said Rep. Rob Ecklund (DFL – International Falls). “I’m particularly proud of our work to expand investments in broadband, which businesses, students, and farmers depend on. These investments will help our communities in northern Minnesota remain vibrant.”
The budget includes increased funding for education, with an increase of two percent on the per-pupil formula each of the next two years. It also includes protection of 4,000 voluntary pre-kindergarten slots and $90 million to address the federal government’s failure to properly fund special education. Rep. Ecklund was also successful in securing $200,000 of funding for Cook County Higher Education to provide educational programming and academic support services to remote regions
Middle-class families will see lower taxes with an increase in the Working Family Tax credit and an income tax cut. With increases in Local Government Aid and County Program Aid, and a fix to the Taconite Municipal Aid distribution formula, local governments will be able to better deliver critical services and reduce reliance on property taxes.
Rep. Ecklund was chief author of a measure to boost investments in the state’s Border-to-Border Broadband Grant program. The budget passed Friday includes $40 million of investments over the next two years in reliable, high-speed internet access to more schools, businesses, and homes. Under the program, grants leverage private investments to build broadband infrastructure. Expanded broadband access is a key factor in the future success of rural communities.
In his role as chair of the House Veterans and Military Affairs Division, Rep. Ecklund delivered full funding for the Dept. of Veterans Affairs and the Dept. of Military Affairs. The compromise budget included funding for Veterans Voices program, the C.O.R.E (Counseling and Case Management, Outreach, Referral and Education) program to address veteran homelessness, and the “Helmets to Hardhats” program to help veterans enter building and construction apprenticeship programs.
The Transportation budget included initiatives chief-authored by Rep. Ecklund to remove weight limits for trucks hauling paper, finished forest products, and iron ore tailings. The Environment budget contains funding for several ATV and ORV projects proposed by Rep. Ecklund including the Voyageur ATV Trail, the Prospector Loop Trail, and the Taconite State Trail. Rep. Ecklund’s initiative for the Off-Highway Motorcycle Trail Master Plan was also included.
Information on the legislation considered during the special session can be found here.
The 2020 legislative session is set to begin February 11.