With the regular and special session ended, I wanted to send out a brief newsletter that lets you know what made it through in our budget negotiations and what that means to Minnesota.
I was very proud of the bills that were passed as stand-alone bills this session. These bills help keep firefighters and children safe, give physical therapists more ability to serve their patients, and ensure that state and local governments are involved in user acceptance testing when new information technology is proposed. See below for brief descriptions as well as link to the bill language.
Stay tuned for more of the stand-alone bills that I passed this session and their details in a coming newsletter.
• SF316- This bill ensures that those who work with state or local government information technologies have a say in how they implement new software through “user acceptance testing.”
• SF321- This bill aims to tackle the issue of flame retardant chemicals. These are used by manufacturers as well as by firefighters. These chemicals were once thought to help those fighting fires by slowing down the burn, but in fact they were more dangerous to the men and women in the fire service. Many cases relating to the retardants have been linked to cancer and other health risks. This bill cuts down where and when the flame retardants can be used to protect those in the fire service as well as consumers from the burden of these chemicals.
• SF653- This bill will help licensed physical therapists better serve their clients and ensure even those in rural Minnesota have fair and effective access to disability placards.
State budget details
When I met with -Minnesotans last fall, they spoke loud and clear that they wanted their voices and principles heard and represented in St. Paul this year. From the onset, I have dedicated myself to ensuring that our government lives within its means. The result with our budget was a victory for Minnesotans. We delivered the first income tax relief in years, we continued our commitment to transportation, we funded our schools, we introduced reform to drive down the cost of health care, and we protected our vulnerable and elderly populations.
In a special session that adjourned early Saturday morning, we passed the remaining bills to fund state government, agencies, and consumer services for the next two years. In total, the legislature passed 11 budget bills; each bill awaits action by Governor Tim Walz.
As Minnesota finally conforms to the federal tax code, Minnesotans will also see the first -middle-class income tax cut in nearly two decades. The second-tier income tax bracket, which impacts couples earning between $37,850 and $150,380 and individuals earning between $25,890 and $85,060, will drop from 7.05% to 6.8%. We also increased the Social Security income exclusion for seniors from the current amount by $650.
Public schools will receive a per-pupil funding increase of 2% in each of the next two years – a major investment for a total of over $20.1 billion. The legislature also approved $90 million to help cover the rising costs of special education and provides districts with funding for safety enhancements.
Minnesota’s transportation infrastructure will see an additional $275 million appropriated for statewide road construction, delivery, and maintenance that will be a total investment of $6.7 billion – without raising the gas tax, vehicle sales tax, or license plate tab fees. The departments of transportation and public safety will be audited next year to ensure accountability and transparency within state agencies. An outside company will build a replacement for the fatally flawed MNLARS program so they can be held accountable instead of using a state agency as in the past.
Health and human services, the largest area of the state budget, will spend more than $15 billion over the next two years on health care and social services. The budget includes new prescription drug transparency requirements, an insulin program for individuals in need, and funding for mental health services. Landmark protections for elderly and vulnerable Minnesotans will go into effect next year, including the explicit right of senior care facility residents to place cameras in their rooms, and funding for more agency staff to assist with questions or complaints. In addition, the successful health insurance premium security program will remain in place – a proven method for lowering health insurance rates for families, farmers, and small businesses.
Finally, the legislature passed an additional $40 million for rural broadband expansion, more funding to protect the state against cybersecurity threats, additional funding for dozens of new corrections officers, and an investment in workforce training programs and technical education programs. In addition to passing legislation aimed at making college textbooks more affordable, the legislature expanded the state grant program and capped in-state tuition at most public colleges and universities in Minnesota.
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Senator Jeff Howe
3235 Minnesota Senate Building
95 University Avenue West
Saint Paul, MN 55155
Tel: (651) 296-2084