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.
As budget negotiations continue, Governor Tim Walz rallied with teachers in the rotunda Saturday, May 18, while Senate Republicans touted their plan to continue state funding should negotiations fail.
On a party-line vote, the Senate passed a bill that would continue funding state government through the next two fiscal years. Sponsored by Senator Roger Chamberlain, R-Lino Lakes, the bill would increase overall funding by 4 percent.
Chamber said continuing funding should budget negotiations fail is "wise, it's prudent, it's responsible. It keeps everybody in their place, services delivered."
Senate Minority Leader Tom Bakk, DFL-Cook, argued against the bill. "Some people have characterized this as a continuing resolution, and I just want to be clear, that's not what this is. What this is is a new two-year budget for the state of Minnesota." He said that many of the budget provisions supported by the Senate earlier in the session would be excluded, including additional funds for education, heath care and Minnesota's prisons.
Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka briefly addressed the media Friday, May 17, following the day's second round of budget negotiations. He indicated that the negotiators are making progress, but are not quite there and that details of the discussions are too sensitive to reveal.
The Senate Finance Committee advanced a bill Thursday, May 16, that would continue to fund state government operations over the coming two fiscal years should budget negotiations fail. Sponsored by Senator Roger Chamberlain, R-Lino Lakes, the bill would fund agency services and state employees at the projected amounts required according to the latest state budget forecast.
Chamberlain said the bill is "protecting state workers, protecting the people who depend on those services and protecting the people who pay the bills." Speaking in opposition to the measure, Senator John Marty, DFL-Roseville, said, "I think this is premature...I think this puts things on auto pilot."
The Legislature must adjourn by midnight on Monday, June 20th. Following the adjournment, only the governor is empowered to call them back into special session to complete a budget.