The House is making progress on comparatively smaller omnibus budget bills this week as the big-ticket packages remain unresolved and we prepare to enter the final week of the 2023 session. I also continue working in my position as the ranking House Republican on capital investment to assemble a bonding bill to conduct infrastructure projects around the state. Here is the latest from the House but, first, a couple other items of note:
Here’s wishing moms in our district a Happy Mother’s Day. I hope you are able to spend time doing things you enjoy in the company of loved ones this weekend. Thanks for all you do.
Minnesota’s fishing opener is this weekend and good luck to those heading out on the water. As an FYI, the omnibus environment package House Democrats approved in April raises fees for fishing, boating and visiting state parks. Those increases could be in place by next year, pending the final language in that bill and this session's outcome.
Teacher Appreciation Week
As a former teacher, I have a strong appreciation for the educators in our district. A sincere thank-you goes out to all our teachers as we recognize their efforts this Teachers Appreciation Week.
Vets, Legacy among bills that pass
As the major finance packages are resolved, bills related to veterans and the Legacy Amendment were among those to receive final approval in the House this week.
The Legacy finance bill appropriates funds derived from the Legacy Amendment voters approved in 2008 to support clean water, outdoor heritage, arts and parks/trails. The bill which passed this week delivers nearly $819 million during the next two years. This includes $100,000 for continued restoration of the Litchfield Opera House.
A veterans and military affairs finance package (H.F. 1937) also received final approval, unopposed on a 131-0 vote. This bill funds Minnesota’s National Guard members and veterans after their service to our state and nation concludes – with appropriations for the state’s next two-year budget cycle. The final version provides $383 million in total General Fund spending for programs to help veterans over the 2024-25 biennium – a $128 million increase from current levels. In total funding, this includes $94.5 million for the Dept. of Military Affairs and $288.5 million for the Dept. of Veterans Affairs. The bill also delivers operational funding for three new veterans homes, including ones constructed in Bemidji, Montevideo and Preston.
House Republicans successfully added numerous provisions to the bill that were retained by the conference committee for the final bill. This includes expanding the Veteran Bonus program to veterans who currently live in Minnesota, even though they may not have lived in the state when they enlisted, as well as veterans who served in the Inherent Resolve Military campaign. Additional funding for veteran bonuses also is included in the package. The bill increases the Veterans GI Bill tuition benefit from $3,000 to $5,000 per year, and ups the lifetime benefit from $10,000 to $15,000.
Big budget bills
In total, the budget package House Democrats approved in recent weeks for the next two-year cycle increases state spending by 40 percent, raising taxes by $9.5 billion despite a $17.5 billion surplus. Let’s hope conference committees moderate these bills before they come back for votes on final passage. We, as legislators, must honor the state’s taxpayers and be careful stewards of their dollars and this budget misses the mark in those regards.
Stay tuned for more from the Capitol as the rest of this session unfolds and, as always, your feedback is welcome.