Last week at the Capitol, the House concluded our special session to finish a new two-year state budget. The budget delivers important investments in students, families, workers, and small businesses to help all Minnesotans bounce back from an incredibly difficult year. Minnesota has the only divided legislature in the entire country, and while reaching a bipartisan agreement was difficult, people across our state have been counting on lawmakers to compromise so we can all have a stronger future. Here are some of the highlights.
When COVID-19 emerged, workers and business owners across our state suddenly faced unparalleled difficulties. This session, as we put the pandemic behind us, lawmakers had the responsibility to not just help people move past this crisis at the current moment, but have economic security into the future.
As the chair of the House Labor, Industry & Veterans Affairs Committee, I’m proud our compromise Jobs & Labor budget contains a variety of resources to help those who’ve struggled over the past year. The budget invests $70 million in Main Street COVID-19 grants to small businesses harmed by COVID-19 – up to $25,000 – with the smallest businesses prioritized. The budget also delivers support for entrepreneurs, child care providers, and tech startups. To help meet statewide connectivity goals, the budget takes advantage of funding under the American Rescue Plan to invest $70 million over the next two years in high-speed broadband. In the year 2021, it’s unacceptable that so many folks in Greater Minnesota still struggle to get online, and these investments will help students do coursework, businesses reach markets, health care consumers receive telehealth services, and families better stay in touch with one another.
The budget also includes significant support for workers through investments in apprenticeship programs, strengthened workplace safety, and expanded accommodations for new and expecting mothers. You can read more here about the Jobs & Labor budget and the investments that will help Minnesotans thrive.
Like many Minnesotans, our military veterans faced unique challenges during the pandemic, and they too deserve the tools they need to succeed when they return home. Our compromise State Government, Veterans, and Elections budget invests in the well-being of our veterans, including veteran homelessness, suicide, and encounters with the criminal justice system. Suicide has claimed more than 100 Minnesota Veteran lives per year during the past five years. To honor the struggle faced by those who served our state and nation, and to shine a light on available resources, the bill establishes Veterans Suicide Prevention and Awareness Day to commemorate this cause. The legislation also increases funding to the Department of Veterans Affairs, investing in new veterans homes in Bemidji, Montevideo, and Preston, and addresses veteran homelessness by establishing the Veterans Safe Housing Initiative to help veterans facing housing insecurity.
After several years of work, I’m excited that we reached an agreement to include the Veterans Restorative Justice Act in our budget. For many veterans who’ve fallen down a troubled path, incarceration simply isn’t the appropriate response. It’s not helpful for them, nor is it helpful for their family or community. Through a new sentencing structure under this bill, more veterans will be able to access the substance abuse and mental health treatment services they deserve.
We owe a great debt to those who served our country, and our budget strives to meet that responsibility. You can read more about these important investments here.
Overall, our bipartisan state budget agreement represents a major step forward to strengthen the way of life for all Minnesotans. Our E-12 Education budget delivered a historic per-pupil funding increase which will help students catch up on learning loss. Our Taxes bill will help deliver economic security for workers, families, and businesses, including measures exempting pandemic unemployment insurance benefits and Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loans from state taxes. Our Housing budget delivers resources for both landlords and renters as the eviction moratorium – a critical step during COVID-19’s initial turmoil – winds down. The Health and Human Services budget makes strong investments in local public health – which communities across the state have relied on during the pandemic, rate increases for Personal Care Attendants, and other solutions to help more Minnesotans get the care they need including maternal health, dental services, and coverage for children with asthma. These are just a few examples, and House Public Information Services has summarized each of our other budget packages, which you can read here:
Please continue to contact me with your feedback and ideas, or if I can ever be of assistance. It’s an honor to represent you.