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.
“Minnesotans care about each other, and our budgets should be built with this value in mind to give every Minnesotan, no matter where they live or what they look like, the opportunity to succeed,” said Rep. Liz Olson (DFL – Duluth), the House Majority Whip. “In divided government, compromise is necessary. This work sets us on a path to continue improving the lives of Minnesotans.”
“The common ground we reached in putting together this budget will mean health care funding for many Minnesotans is no longer in jeopardy,” said Rep. Jen Schultz (DFL – Duluth), chair of the House Long-Term Care Division. “While we protected health care for more than a million Minnesotans along with investments in programs serving seniors and vulnerable adults, we have significant work to do to reduce health care costs. Our efforts to make health care more affordable and accessible for all Minnesotans do not end with this special session.”
Reps. Schultz and Olson championed several pieces of legislation this session to benefit Duluth. After Duluthians supported it at the ballot box by a three-to-one margin, the Legislature has approved the local option sales tax for street improvements. $97 million of funding for the Duluth Medical District was approved for Essentia Health and St. Luke’s Hospital as well as a new Tax Increment Financing District downtown. $2 million from the Minnesota Investment Fund was appropriated for the Verso paper mill to help it convert to produce a more economically viable grade of paper.
Other success in the budget cheered by Reps. Schultz and Olson include increased funding for education, including protection of 4,000 voluntary pre-kindergarten slots and $90 million to address the federal government’s failure to properly fund special education, a funding boost for child care assistance, an increase in the Working Family Tax credit and an income tax cut for middle-class families, and the first increase in the Minnesota Family Investment Program in more than three decades.
Earlier in the session, Rep. Schultz led an effort to successfully reach consensus for new protections for seniors and vulnerable adults, including licensure of assisted living facilities. Currently, Minnesota is the only state without such a framework. To address the state’s persistent opioid crisis, Rep. Olson was chief author of a bill to invest in both new and proven strategies to address opioid use disorders. It also delivered funding to counties for the significant public safety resources they’ve had to expend.
The 2020 legislative session is set to begin February 11.