ST. PAUL – The Minnesota House adjourned Thursday from a special session after having approved a series of omnibus finance bills to shape the state’s next two-year budget.
State Rep. Lisa Demuth, R-Cold Spring, said the finished product includes some key victories, other provisions that are cause for concern and some issues that need further attention.
“I am pleased we were able to accomplish a number of House Republican priorities,” Demuth said. “We kept health care premiums from skyrocketing by extending reinsurance for another year. We supported law enforcement and prevented billions of dollars in tax increases during a time of historic surplus. This includes sparing struggling businesses and people who have been out of work from suffering added state taxes on Payment Protection Loans and unemployment insurance.”
Demuth also said she was pleased with $1.2 million provided in an omnibus to design and construct Phase 3 of the ROCORI Trail along the old railroad corridor between the cities of Cold Spring and Rockville. And she noted legislation she authored creating an ombudsperson office to assist family childcare providers with licensing, compliance, and issues facing providers received approval. They will be independent of any agencies and will represent the interests of childcare providers.
“We are facing a great shortage of childcare providers in our state, especially in Greater Minnesota,” Demuth said. “This measure is just one way we can foster a better relationship between the state and providers and mitigate issues that may be contributing to our situation.”
The overall budget is around $52 billion for the next biennium. This includes added funding for K-12 education Demuth supported, with 2.45% and 2% increases the next two years.
An omnibus package with numerous public safety provisions was among the most contentious but, in the end, much of the controversial policy was stripped and no anti-police reform measures made it into the final deal. Demuth said provisions that remained have been revised to make them acceptable to law enforcement groups.
“Measures that would have made it harder for law enforcement officers to do their jobs and keep our communities safe were stopped and, for that, we can be grateful,” Demuth said. “I am proud to stand with law enforcement and we need to be focusing on broad, multi-faceted efforts to make our state safer.”
In addition, the Legislature on Wednesday approved language ending Minnesota’s peacetime emergency for COVID-19 the governor declared in March of 2020. The move came on a motion made by House Republicans to amend a state government finance omnibus bill which subsequently received full legislative approval.
Then, House Democrats on Thursday amended new language related to emergency powers onto an omnibus tax bill which was approved by both bodies. Demuth said she objected to the change and has concern that it grants power to the governor’s commissioners to declare a public health disaster for nearly any reason without proper guardrails to prevent overreach.
“We ended the governor’s state of emergency on Wednesday and that’s where this issue should have ended,” Demuth said. “Reopening this subject with new language is cause for great concern because it could give the governor and his administration even more unchecked latitude to make decisions that have the effect of law.”