ST. PAUL – The Minnesota House adjourned Thursday from a special session after having approved a series of omnibus finance bills to shape the state’s next two-year budget.
State Rep. Dean Urdahl, R-Acton Township, said the finished product includes some key victories, other provisions that are cause for concern and some issues that need further attention.
The overall budget is around $52 billion for the next biennium. Urdahl said he is pleased tax increases are not included despite billions of dollars in hikes proposed by House Democrats and Gov. Tim Walz.
Among the omnibus finance packages Urdahl supported is funding for K-12 education, featuring 2.45% and 2% increases the next two years. Legislation Urdahl authored to create a mentorship program geared toward retaining teachers was in the final package.
“We lose far too many teachers during their first five years in the profession and this mentorship program should help us stem those losses,” Urdahl said. “It is crucial that we help newer teachers grow into their career and additional guidance could lead to positive outcomes in that regard.”
Urdahl said some of the success in the new budget include provisions that House Republicans worked to prevent from becoming law. An omnibus package with numerous public safety provisions was among the most contentious but, in the end, much of the controversial policy was stripped and no anti-police reform measures made it into the final deal.
“Public safety is a major issue right now and we need to be working to make our state safer,” Urdahl said. “A number of anti-police measures that would have made it harder for law enforcement to do their jobs were proposed this year and it is good that we prevented them from passing into law.”
Urdahl said he has concern for a lack of progress on some issues. For instance, he said legislative action was not taken preventing the governor from mandating California’s auto standards in Minnesota. Urdahl said this move would put California in charge of Minnesota’s emissions policies, mandate what types of cars dealers carry on their lots, and ultimately raise the price of a new car in Minnesota by $1,000 or more.
“The governor is looking to implement this change via executive rulemaking, circumventing the Legislature in the process,” Urdahl said. “This issue should come before the Legislature where it can be the subject of due process and transparency.”
In addition, the Legislature on Wednesday approved language ending Minnesota’s peacetime emergency for COVID-19 the governor declared in March of 2020. The move came on a motion made by House Republicans to amend a state government omnibus finance bill which subsequently gained full legislative approval.
Then, on Thursday, House Democrats amended new language related to emergency powers onto an omnibus tax bill which was approved by both bodies. Urdahl said he objected to the change, in large part due to concerns it grants power to the governor’s commissioners to declare a public health emergency for nearly any reason without proper guardrails to prevent overreach.