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Legislative News and Views - Rep. Marion Rarick (R)

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Legislative Update

Friday, May 22, 2015

Dear Neighbor,

On Monday, May 18, the legislature finished the 2015 session, passing a comprehensive, $41.5 billion bipartisan budget that invests in education, improves the quality of life for aging Minnesotans and limits government spending growth—all without a tax increase.

First, the legislature funded education with a total of $17.1 billion which is $1.4 billion over last biennium. Additionally, for our littlest learners, there is $60 million for targeted early learning scholarships and school readiness aid which will help close the achievement gap. These scholarships are portable and parents can choose where to take their children. The governor wants $150 million to expand pre-k into public schools. Our schools don't have the space and fear another unfunded mandate, and they asked us to focus on funding programs we currently have in place.  Finally, to help with facilities maintenance, there's additional money to help cover building repair which benefits both our school districts and local taxpayers.

Our nursing homes, which were desperate for much-needed funding increases, were also big winners this session. The House advocated for a $138 million investment in our care centers which will increase the reimbursement rates for nursing homes and offer stable funding in the long-term. What's more, it will also help raise the wages for the hardworking caregivers in this profession. Increased nursing home funding will make a significant difference for Wright County which currently receives significantly lower reimbursement rates from the state than neighboring metro counties. Buffalo facilities are receiving an average of 24.1 percent funding increase, and the New River Medical Center in Monticello is receiving a 43.77 percent increase.

Next, for 410,000 Minnesota college students, the legislature passed additional tuition relief. MnSCU two year schools will see a tuition freeze in 2016 and a 1 percent tuition reduction in 2017. MnSCU four year universities will also see a tuition freeze in 2017, and the University of Minnesota was given $22.2 million toward student tuition relief. Also, in the higher education budget bill is a policy I advanced this session to address sexual assault on college campuses which will make a real impact on the safety and security of both students and staff.

Additionally, this session I advanced legislation that will benefit builders and subcontractors. The Department of Labor and Industry (DOLI) has rulemaking authority over the state's building code which they will now be able to change only on a six year cycle with a couple of exceptions, giving the industry more certainty and time to adjust to major changes. Also in the bill is a provision I crafted to move subcontractor registration renewal with DOLI from June 30, their busiest season, to December 31. While it's a small change, it will have a big impact for people in the construction trades.

Finally, it's just as important to note what is not in the final budget. Republicans fought back against the governor's and Senate DFL's insistence on a regressive, unneeded wholesale gas tax which would have increased the price of gas by at least 16 cents per gallon. While this means we didn't get tax reforms and reductions this session, I am glad we stood up for Minnesotans, the vast majority of whom opposed what would be the largest gas tax increase in state history.

As you may know, Governor Dayton has vetoed our education bill and will call for a special session because the legislature did not fund universal pre-k, a plan that was never included in any version of the Senate or House education bills. I am disappointed the governor has vetoed our bipartisan budget when the GOP and DFL came together to advance a balanced state funding solution that works for the people and priorities of Minnesota.  

As always, please feel free to contact me about any state legislative issue. You can e-mail at Rep.Marion.ONeill@House.MN or call my office at 651-296-5063. You can also write a letter to me. My office address at the Capitol is 549 State Office Building, 100 Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd, St. Paul, MN 55155.




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