Hello from St. Paul,
As today marks the date of our 2nd legislative deadline, which is when House committees must act favorably on bills, or companions of bills, that met the first legislative deadline (March 10) in the Senate, there is news of budget target agreements and the fate of Minnesota’s $17 billion budget surplus.
BUDGET TARGETS SHOW 35% INCREASE IN STATE GOVERNMENT SPENDING
There are two points worth highlighting as it relates to the budget targets unveiled Tuesday. An agreement between the Governor, Senate, and House in the month of March is noteworthy. Oftentimes, that comes in the middle of May or days before session is to adjourn. Of course, single party control of state government makes the news less surprising. It is a major development in the process either way.
The targets tell the priorities of state government for the next two years. In all, the agreement is $17.9 billion in new spending; it's a 35 percent increase from the current $52 billion general fund spending. Even with the surplus, tax increases to meet these targets are not off the table.
What I’m seeing as the most troubling is how much of it goes to brand new programs when current programs aren't made whole. Case in point: the nursing home situation throughout the state. Our nursing homes are in need of more than $1 billion over the next four years just to bring wages up so more people can be hired and more patients and residents can be brought in. This would also relieve the strain that’s on the hospital system, which is also having setbacks. Yet we’re not seeing that advance this session. The same can be said for road repairs and local government support.
The exact details of each budget area will become clearer next week when the omnibus bills are introduced.
ANOTHER ABORTION BILL PASSES HOUSE
This week, the House majority brought forward and approved more abortion-related legislation. HF366 prevents the release of patient medical records if they were the subject of a civil or criminal subpoena in a different jurisdiction as a result of getting an abortion; prevents licensure boards from acting against licensed healthcare professionals if they provided or assisted in reproductive healthcare services; and modifies the enforcement of judgements and civil liability for medical professionals providing reproductive healthcare services. Proponents argued that what's done legally in Minnesota shouldn't be a crime to another state. Opponents argued that the legislation will make Minnesota a sanctuary state for abortion. I opposed the bill.
GOOD NEWS ON SOUTHWESTERN MINNESOTA WORKFORCE DEVELOPMENT SCHOLARSHIP PROGRAM
As I mentioned last week, the workforce development committee heard our bill to establish a Southwestern Minnesota Workforce Development Scholarship Program. I'm glad to report the hearing was successful. This plan was brought to me by local mayors to keep graduating seniors in their hometowns and create great opportunities for businesses to offer apprenticeships. The bill is now available to be part of a more comprehensive workforce development bill that will be unveiled in the coming weeks. I will keep you updated on its progress.
Enjoy the dry and slightly warmer weekend,