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Legislative News and Views - Rep. Brian Johnson (R)

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Legislative Update

Friday, May 6, 2016

Dear Friends and Neighbors,

Here is an update from St. Paul.

Omnibus Bills

Last week, the House passed three omnibus bills which encompass funding and policy provisions in a number of subject areas including education, public safety, health and human services and state government. You may recall that House Republicans set forth a net zero spending increase for budget targets, and funding provisions in these bills are paid for through cost savings and by using  previously unspent allocated money from past sessions. Not only do these bills better utilize taxpayer dollars, but it also leaves the state's $900 million surplus available for transportation and tax relief.

Below are some of the key reforms and provisions in the omnibus bills passed last week.

Education and Higher Education

The supplemental Education/Higher Education omnibus bill passed on a bipartisan vote. The bill invests $56 million of cost savings from other programs and aims to address the needs of students, educators and school districts across the state. 

Here are some of the highlights in this bill:

  • Works on fixes to our broken teacher licensure system to help more quality, qualified educators teach in Minnesota schools
  • Reduces the funding disparity between metro and non-metro school districts
  • Implements reforms to protect educators and school staff, giving teacher authority over their classrooms and addressing violence in our schools
  • Expands higher education opportunities for students with intellectual and developmental disabilities
  • Continues to work on narrowing the achievement gap and provide every Minnesota student with a world-class education

Health and Human Services, Public Safety and State Government

The supplemental Health and Human Services/Public Safety/State Government omnibus bill implements a number of key reforms to save taxpayers money. From cutting the size of state government to rolling back on the expensive boondoggle, MNsure, this bill is about helping Minnesotans.

Here are some of the highlights in this bill:

  • Transitions our failed $300 million MNsure website to the federal exchange, and makes several reforms including limiting the state's ability to make future estate claims, reducing the cost of health care by cutting the premium tax in half and establishing benchmarks for our health care exchange
  • Reduces salaries of political appointees and politicians, and implements a state government hiring freeze for Fiscal Year 2017
  • Captures waste, fraud and abuse in public programs, directing the savings found to go to a one time rate increase for long-term and community-based caregivers
  • Directs the Department of Corrections to examine the cost of reopening Appleton Prison to ease the bed shortage for state prisons

Jobs, Energy, Environment and Agriculture

The Jobs/Energy/Environment/Agriculture supplemental bill focuses on the basic needs of Minnesotans across the state including broadband internet and clean water.

Here are some of the highlights in this bill:

  • Provides new funding to expand broadband internet access in unserved and underserved parts of our state
  • Funds the completion of the Lewis and Clark Regional Water System to provide clean water for parts of Southwest Minnesota
  • Reprioritizes unspent money from last year's avian flu crisis for livestock disease prevention and a farm safety pilot program


In addition to supplemental budget bills, a tax bill and a transportation bill, a bonding bill may also be in the mix of final negotiations this session. The House has set a $600 million bonding target, while the Senate's bonding proposal released this week is a whopping $1.5 billion.

This excessive bonding proposal would put a lot on our state's credit card and will cost taxpayers in the long-run. We already spend about $1.5 billion each biennium paying off our debts for previously approved capital investment projects, and it is one of the fastest growing categories of General Fund expenditures. The average bonding bill over the past decade has been around $800 million.

I am also concerned about a handful of DFL Senators who are saying they will hold a bonding bill hostage unless it includes the $135 million for Southwest Light Rail, a $1.77 billion train that has increased in estimated cost by nearly 50 percent.

I respect hardworking Minnesota taxpayers and will continue to focus on their priorities this session. We should not be borrowing huge amounts or raising taxes when we have existing resources that can go toward road and bridge improvements and tax relief.


As always, please do not hesitate to contact my office if I can be of assistance to you or your family on a matter of state government. I am here to serve you!

Have a wonderful weekend.