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Legislative News and Views - Rep. Bob Dettmer (R)

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End of Session Legislative Update from Rep. Bob Dettmer

Friday, June 19, 2015

On Friday June 12, after weeks of further negotiations with Governor Dayton over vetoed bipartisan budget bills, the legislature held a special session and finished our work on behalf of Minnesotans. Our final budget invests in our kids, aging adults and Minnesota families while reining in state government growth.

Education was the biggest sticking point that led to a special session, and we ended up with an agreement that includes $525 million in new spending for education, putting 2 percent more on the student formula for 2016 and 2017. Republicans prioritized spending on the formula because it means more money in every classroom across the state, and gives school districts the flexibility to spend that money in a way that best suits their needs.

Additionally, although the governor did not get funding for universal, mandatory pre-kindergarten, which is why he originally vetoed our bipartisan education bill, we did make a significant investment in targeted early learning initiatives including scholarships and school readiness aid. This will help close the achievement gap, reach low income kids in need, and give parents options to choose an early education program that works best for their child.

Of course, education wasn't the only area we focused on this session. House Republicans also made aging Minnesotans a top priority, investing more in nursing home care to ensure long-term, stable funding. This investment will improve the quality of life and care for seniors, as well as raise wages for hardworking caregivers in this field. Veterans homes were also a priority in the State Government Finance Omnibus Bill passed this session with an additional $17 million investment.

Additional oversights for state government were also included in several of our budget bills to find efficiencies and protect hardworking taxpayers. Even when we have a substantial surplus like we did this year, it's important that government continues to look for ways to become more efficient and cost-effective.

Last, it is just as important to note what is not in our budget agreement this year—a gas tax increase. Fixing our roads and bridges and offering $2 billion in tax relief were two of the top legislative priorities for Republicans this session. However, Democrats would not pass either a long-term transportation plan or a tax bill without an agreement to pass the biggest gas tax increase in our state's history. Hearing overwhelmingly from constituents that they opposed a gas tax increase, House Republicans held firm on this issue which would have harmed middle class families, people on a fixed income and cost Minnesota drivers hundreds of dollars more each year. With more than $800 million left unspent, we will revisit both transportation and taxes in 2016.

Overall, I found this to be a very bipartisan and productive legislative session, with the legislature and governor compromising on a budget that works for Minnesota families and taxpayers. We defeated a gas tax increase, invested in our schools and implemented meaningful reforms to state government. What's more, our final budget agreement was the third lowest state spending increase in the past 50 years, as Republicans worked to limit government growth and keep spending in line with family budgets.