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Minnesota Legislature

Improving and Reforming Health and Human Services

For more than a decade, lawmakers from both political parties have stressed the need to curb the growing cost of assisting vulnerable and disadvantaged Minnesotans. During that time, state funding for health and human services has continued to inch upward, largely due to a growing and aging state population and the ongoing pressure on many state and county programs. Commissioner Tony Lourey, a former Senator who is widely respected for his work in this field, joins Capitol Report moderator Shannon Loehrke to review the completed work of Governor Tim Walz and state lawmakers to support the most vulnerable Minnesotans while containing costs.

Senator Jim Abeler, as chair of the Human Services Reform Committee, has been fighting for ways to improve assistance for those in need while making efficient use of taxpayer dollars. He joins Shannon to present highlights and challenges facing efficient use of state dollars as lawmakers work to bring integrity to the various public assistance programs.

Setting a New State Budget

Following yet another legislative session with a divided state government, Governor Tim Walz, House Speaker Melissa Hortman and Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka finalized a two year budget for the State of Minnesota behind closed doors. On this week's program, Capitol Report Moderator Shannon Loehrke talks with key lawmakers about the final results of the 2019 legislative session and whether improvements are needed to bring greater transparency to the budget crafting process.

Speaker Melissa Hortman joins Shannon to share her views on the successes and failures of the final budget accord; House Minority Leader Kurt Daudt assess the effectiveness of the session and whether reforms are required to increase transparency; and Senate Tax Chair Roger Chamberlain highlights the forthcoming income tax rate reduction and impact of final budget agreement on Minnesotans.

Reflections and Highlights of Minnesota's Legislative Session

On this week's program, Minnesota Governor Tim Walz joins moderator Shannon Loehrke to reflect on his first legislative session, plus highlights of the state’s coming two year budget, which takes effect July 1.

Also, the second floor of the State Capitol is known as the "Grand Floor," and Brian Pease of the Minnesota Historical Society explains the reasons for the distinction.

Senate Acts on Major Budget Agreements

The Senate opened the 2019 special session Friday, May 24, and took action on the final budget agreements reached by Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka, House Speaker Melissa Hortman and Governor Tim Walz. Below are highlights of the special session budget bills. (To view the floor debates, select the Senate Floor Sessions link above.)

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.

Agreements to Combat Opioid Addiction, Fund Higher Education Pass the Senate

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.

Agreement Reached on Combatting Opioid Addiction

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.