Governor Mark Dayton and Republican leaders addressed the media Monday, May 22, to announce that they reached a tentative agreement for a special session to pass bills to fund education, health and human services, transportation, state agencies, and capital improvements while providing tax relief.
The special session will be called for Wednesday, May 23, at 12:01 a.m., and the leaders said the bills will be passed by 7 a.m. Wednesday, May 24.
Senate Passes Funding for Public Safety, Judiciary
The Senate gave its final stamp of approval Monday, May 22, to a bill that provides about $2.3 billion dollars for public safety and the judiciary, which according to bill author Senator Warren Limmer, R-Maple Grove, reflects about $168,000 dollars above current funding levels. The revised plan approved by the House and Senate was sent to Governor Dayton for his consideration.
Among the bill's various provisions, the measure provides funding for officer training; assists officers in handling suicidal and mentally disturbed persons; and creates crisis intervention team training. Furthermore, the bill modernizes the predatory offender registry managed by the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension (BCA).
One of the provisions that garnered considerable debate would codify the existing rule prohibiting the issuance of drivers licenses to unauthorized immigrants. Governor Dayton earlier said that he would veto a bill that included the provision.
Agreement to Raise Funding for Higher Education Passes
A bill that provides an additional $210 million dollars for higher education gained the approval of the Senate Sunday, May 21, and is expected to be signed into law by Governor Mark Dayton.
Sponsored by Senator Michelle Fischbach, R-Paynesville, the bill increases funding for the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities by $106 million dollars and provides $54.6 million additional dollars for the University of Minnesota. The proposal freezes 2018-2019 tuition at Minnesota State schools and provides a $49 million dollar increase to the Office of Higher Education, which oversees tuitions assistance programs.
Senator Fischbach said the final agreement bill provides additional funding for higher education, more than originally passed by the Senate. Senator Richard Cohen, DFL-St. Paul, said the bill moves away from the legislative tradition of balancing funding for both the University of Minnesota and the Minnesota State schools.
Republicans Outline Budget Process to End Session
Private negotiations to find agreement on global targets for the state's next two-year budget between Governor Mark Dayton and legislative leaders continued through the afternoon Friday, May 19, until Republican leaders called a press conference to announce their latest compromise. Speaker of the House Kurt Daudt stressed that they are not walking away from the Governor, but 'hope to engage with the Governor over the next three days' to find agreement.
Lawmakers have an almost $1.5 billion dollar surplus to divvy up. The latest Republican proposal would direct $660 million dollars towards tax relief, down from their original conference position of $1.1 billion dollars. In other areas, they propose spending $300 million dollars on roads and bridges, $467 million dollars for E-12 Education and $164 million dollars towards Judiciary and Public Safety.
Senate Majority Paul Gazelka reported that he spoke to Lt. Governor Tina Smith, explaining that, "We want to keep moving. We want your Chairs to be involved with us as we move through the process so that we can still finish on time."
Capitol Report: Perspectives from Freshmen Senators
Produced and Moderated by Shannon Loehrke
As the 2017 legislative session comes to a close, three freshmen Senators discuss with Capitol Report moderator Shannon Loehrke their experiences navigating lawmaking, politics, personal and professional responsibilities.
Senator Scott Jensen, R-Chaska, is a family practice physician with a clinic in Watertown, Minnesota. Senator Nick Frentz, DFL-North Mankato, is an attorney and Senator Paul Utke, R-Park Rapids, is an insurance agent.
Budget Negotiations Falter
With the latest budget target offers, Governor Mark Dayton and legislative leaders failed to reach a global budget agreement Wednesday, May 17, and further negotiations remain uncertain.
On Wednesday, Dayton offered GOP leaders a proposal he described as "meeting half way." Specifically, his budget plan would set aside $682 million dollars of the budget reserve for tax relief and transportation. Another $682 million would be dedicated to additional spending, including increasing education funding by $507 million dollars, higher education funding by $221 million dollars and state government agencies by nearly $51 million dollars. Under Dayton's latest plan, health and human services programs would be reduced by $283 million dollars.
Later in the day, Republican leaders countered Dayton's proposal by setting aside $825 million in tax relief and $372 million dollars for transportation. The Republican plan would spend an additional $440 million on education; $185 million on higher education. It would reduce spending by $390 million in health and human services programs.
Dayton told the media that the Republican plan was unacceptable, because it dedicated to much of the surplus to tax relief and transportation.
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