Since the legislature adjourned the 2019 session, Governor Walz, Senate Majority Leader Gazelka and Speaker Hortman have been working behind closed doors to iron out budget agreements. Here are highlights of the agreements that have been reached.
Regarding Taxes, the state will conform Minnesota’s tax code to the federal changes enacted in 2017. It also includes a .25 percent tax cut for second-tier income taxpayers and statewide property tax reductions for businesses.
The Transportation agreement provides additional funds for statewide road construction and maintenance without raising the gas tax. Money is provided for a new software system to replace the troubled Minnesota Licensing and Registration system and $13 million dollars is directed toward deputy registrars, whose businesses were harmed by the faulty rollout of MNLARS.
In Education, schools will receive per pupil formula increases of two percent in 2020 and another two percent in 2021. The agreement also provides additional funding for school safety, including hiring more school counselors and increased funding for special education expenses.
With regard to Judiciary and Public Safety, the agreement authorizes additional funds for more corrections officers, and two task forces are established - a sexual assault task force to look for reforms to better protect victims, and a task force to look into the disproportionate number of indigenous women who are victims of violent crimes.
The finance bill in Agriculture, Rural Development and Housing provides $40 million dollars to expand broadband services, increases access to mental health programs for farmers and invests in affordable workforce housing.
The State Government, Elections and Veterans Affairs agreement appropriates the Help America Vote Act federal election funds to the secretary of state, establishes a legislative commission on housing affordability and includes investments to support and honor veterans.
The budget agreement for Environment and Natural Resources provides funding for research into the spread of Chronic Wasting Disease, or CWD, in the deer population and institutes a surcharge to address aquatic invasive species in Minnesota lakes and waterways.
In the area of Jobs and Economic Development, contractors convicted of wage theft will be disqualified from state contracts. The agreement institutes a consumer awareness campaign on the importance of using licensed contractors and implements a modernized workers’ compensation system to process claims.
In Health and Human Services, the agreement continues the Health Care provider tax, but reduces it from 2 percent to 1.8 percent and creates a blue ribbon council to identify waste in public programs. The state will also continue the reinsurance plan for another two years.
The Senate endorsed the legislative agreements to fund higher education and combat the opioid epidemic prior to closing the 2019 regular session.
Under the agreement to fight opioid addiction, manufacturers will be charged significantly higher licensing fees over the next five years to raise funds supporting prevention, child protection and outreach efforts.
In the area of higher education, the agreement calls for an $150 million additional dollars and boosts scholarship funds, caps tuition increases and aids workforce development programs.
The Senate and House agreement to fund an effort to curb opioid addiction and its effects gained approval of key Senate and House members Monday, May 20. The agreement will be sent to the full bodies for final approval.
Under the plan, opiate manufacturers will be charged significantly higher licensing fees over the next five years to raise funds supporting prevention, child protection and outreach efforts.
Prior to a vote on the agreement, Representative Dave Baker, R-Willmar, and Senator Chris Eaton, DFL-Brooklyn Center, spoke passionately about the effort. Both Baker and Eaton lost children to opioid addiction.
Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka addressed the media Monday, May 20, to outline the remaining steps needed to finalize the state's FY 2020-2021 budget.
According to Gazelka, conference committees have until 5 p.m. Monday to finalize Senate and House budget agreements. If the deadline is not met, the remaining issues will be resolved by Governor Walz, Speaker Hortman and Majority Leader Gazelka. The Legislature must adjourn by midnight, May 20.
Gazelka said despite the amount of work before the legislators, he remains hopeful that a special session could be called for Thursday, May 23, to pass the major budget bills.
Governor Tim Walz and legislative leaders reached a budget accord Sunday, May 19, one day prior to the mandatory date of adjournment. With many details yet to be hammered out by conference committee members and state commissioners, a special session will be required before the budget is passed and enacted.
Under the agreement, E-12 Education will receive an additional $540 million dollars, with the general education formula increased by two percent each year in Fiscal Year 2020 and 2021. Another $358 million is earmarked for health and human services, and the health care provider tax will continue at 1.8 percent. Also, the health care reinsurance program will continue for another two years, according to the agreement.
The budget agreement also includes a tax cut for the middle class with .25 percent rate reduction to the income tax second tier. However, the agreement excludes a gas tax hike.
Another $150 million dollars is designated for higher education, and $125 million additional dollars for public safety, including the hiring of more prison guards. Furthermore, $40 million additional dollars is designated for broadband.
Finally, the bill calls for $440 million dollars in General Obligation Bonds and $60 million dollars for Housing Infrastructure Bonds.
Minnesotans are looking forward to summer in Minnesota, including days at the lake, the State Fair and fireworks. Senator Jason Rarick, R-Pine City, introduced a bill this session that would expand the kinds of fireworks that can be used in Minnesota. He joins Capitol Report moderator Shannon Loehrke to talk about the types of fireworks he hopes Minnesotans can use in the future.
Senator Kent Eken, DFL-Twin Valley, is hoping to ask voters in the next general election whether the state's constitution should be amended to require that funds be dedicated for caring for seniors and people with disabilities. He joins Shannon to talk about the proposal.
Also in the program, lawmakers and advocates make the case for a resolution that would hold pharmaceutical companies liable for adverse side-effects resulting from vaccines.