The Minnesota House has completed our work assembling a two-year Minnesota state budget. I’m proud of the work we were able to do in many of these areas to make Minnesota work better for everyone. While the House has approved these budget packages, these aren’t in their final form. There’s more work to do as House still needs to negotiate a final budget with the Senate. Encouragingly, we’re already ahead of the schedule followed in previous years, and I’m optimistic we can reach consensus before we adjourn May 20. For my part, I’ll keep advocating for a state budget that creates opportunities for Iron Rangers and strengthens our entire state.
Teachers, parents, community members, and students have shared how a lack of adequate funding has led to harmful cuts, putting Minnesota’s excellent schools at risk of falling behind. In response, last week the House approved a historic Education funding package with per-pupil formula increases of three and two percent respectively in the next two years. The budget also expands funding for student support personnel, protects funding for voluntary Pre-K, and addresses the federal government’s failure to fund special education. I’m particularly proud of the work in the budget to expand Full Service Community Schools, which meet students right where they are – at school – with needed services to improve health, family wellbeing, and social development. With these investments, we can ensure all students have the opportunity to achieve and succeed.
Environment and Natural Resources
All Minnesotans deserve clean water, fresh air, the other natural resource which make Minnesota an excellent place to live, including strong fish and wildlife habitats. Our House DFL Environment and Natural Resource budget protects, restores, and enhances these. It includes protections against emerald ash borer, chronic wasting disease, and aquatic invasive species. The budget also includes other measures to keep our water clean, strengthen pollinator habitats, and expand outdoor activities.
For the past couple of years, I’ve worked on a pathway for the future of Hill Annex Mine State Park. Citing sustainability issues in its current operating form, the DNR had indicated a desire to close the park. I’ve worked the DNR and local leaders on a solution so Itasca County can develop local partnerships which can identify a way forward and to eventually take over management of the park. The park has tremendous educational, historical, cultural and scientific value, giving opportunities to learn about our mining heritage, explore the fossils on the site and more. I want to thank the House Environment Finance Committee Chair, Rep. Rick Hansen, for including this in the budget.
Additionally, the House has approved recommendations from the Legislative-Citizen Commission on Minnesota Resources, which invests state lottery proceeds from the environment trust fund, and the Omnibus Legacy Bill, which invests sales tax proceeds from the 2008 voter-approved Legacy Amendment.
Our Judiciary and Public Safety budget included some strong provisions to expand justice, safety and fairness across the state. One of them is a bill I originally authored to require 911 dispatchers to be trained in delivery of telephone CPR instruction, or alternatively, to route a call to someone who is trained. This topic is personal for me, and it has been covered by the Minnesota News Connection, MPR, NPR, Star Tribune, and CNN. Several other states have passed this legislation at no cost. The Public Safety budget also includes steps to stop sexual harassment, assault and other gender-based violence, investments to improve safety in our prisons, and bipartisan reforms to our probation system.
One item still yet to advance is a bonding bill to make capital investments in our state infrastructure. Last month, the House Capital Investment Committee approved a “bonding bill” with investments in projects like the “Windows to the World" lookout on the Susquehanna mine in Hibbing and other numerous investments in wastewater infrastructure, higher education institutions, bridges, trails, correctional facilities and more.
Leadership of the Minnesota Senate has indicated a reluctance to move forward with such a capital investment package this year. With interest rates still low and infrastructure needing improvements, this would be a missed opportunity and I’m hopeful we can deliver these investments before we adjourn for the year.
As a member of the Iron Range Resources and Rehabilitation Board, I know there’s a great deal of work going on to improve the outlook for our region. Many talented people are involved in these efforts and are dedicated to building opportunities for Rangers to succeed and thrive. That’s why recent events in the news were highly embarrassing and are frankly an unfair reflection upon all of us; the old way of doing things doesn’t cut it. While the board is advisory in nature – and not all of us were involved in these recent decisions – by taking actions with integrity, accountability, and transparency, we have the capacity to bring the focus back on the positive work of the agency.
On another note, my colleagues have recently given me the honor to chair the Iron Range Higher Education Committee. From this position, I’ll be working with colleagues to develop pragmatic ideas to improve career training and grow our workforce.
As I mentioned, work continues on our budget legislation, and during this process, I hope you’ll keep in touch with what’s important to you. Please continue to contact me with your ideas, input, or if I can ever be of assistance. It’s an honor to represent you.
Legislative Assistant: Josh Kilgard, 651-296-3918