Last Friday, the House passed the Transportation Finance Omnibus Bill that invests $6 billion over the next decade, with $2 billion being spent in the next two years alone, without raising the gas tax. The bill is funded through bonds and a re-appropriation of auto-related taxes to be spent exclusively on transportation projects. Using current funds to pay for road and bridge improvements at a time that the state is experiencing a $1.6 billion surplus is common sense. There is no need to raise additional revenue.
Some key provisions in the bill that benefit Greater Minnesota:
- Dedicating $25 million over the next two years to a small cities assistance program that allocates funding to cities with fewer than 5,000 residents for local road improvements
Broken down by county:
- Dodge: $102,582
- Rice: $98,449
- Steele: $33,581
- Creating a special fund of $25 million for 97 bridge projects recommended by MnDOT
- Allocating $35 million for rail grade crossings to improve rail safety
- Requiring counties or the County Transit Improvement Board (CTIB) to fund 100% of operating and future capital costs for light rail
Additionally, the House passed the Education Finance Omnibus Bill, which increases funding for our students and schools by $1.1 billion, including more than $300 million for early learning programs; $22 million for a targeted academic achievement initiative that funds before school, afterschool, and summer programs to help low-income students who are falling behind; and $40 million for enhanced school readiness aid. These new funding levels will help in closing the achievement gap.
Other highlights include:
- Continuing efforts to strengthen teacher recruitment and retention, especially in areas with teacher shortages
- Passing sweeping reforms to teacher licensure to help address the teacher workforce shortage
- Repealing the “last in, first out” (LIFO) default in state statute to allow schools and local bargaining units to negotiate mutually beneficial staff retention decisions that better serve students, teachers and schools
- Protecting kids by permitting school districts to provide child sexual abuse prevention instruction
Earlier this week, the House passed the Agriculture Omnibus Bill. This bill focuses on supporting this important industry by investing in the following priorities:
- Responding to Ag emergencies, such as tractor rollovers, Avian Flu, and noxious weeds
- Growing and diversifying our agro-economy, in areas like industrial hemp and biofuel
- Continuing support for production agriculture research, farm safety, Ag Education, and youth development
Additionally, the House passed the Higher Education Omnibus Bill which prioritizes college affordability through public school tuition freezes and reductions, accountability through student loan debt counseling, and accessibility to students previously unable to attend higher education programming, including a provision I authored that continues funding to a pilot program established last session that provides post-secondary education options for young adults with mental disabilities.
The House also passed the Public Safety Omnibus Bill funding the state’s law enforcement sector and providing Minnesotans with a core function of state government: keeping its citizens safe.
Reforms in the bill include:
- Allowing the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension to replace an outdated predatory offender registry
- Increasing penalties against those who choose to participate in illegal protests that put people’s lives at risk
- Providing new revenue to address domestic violence prevention and terrorism recruitment
- Creating stronger penalties and longer supervision for convicted sexual predators
- Dedicating funds for additional sex trafficking prevention grants
- Increasing penalties against those who possess and disseminate child pornography
- Allocating new money to local law enforcement agencies to help them pay for officers’ training costs
These bills will be debated further in a conference committee with the Senate before reaching the Governor’s desk for his consideration.
If you ever have any questions, comments, or concerns regarding any issue related to state government, please feel free to contact me at either 651-296-8237, or firstname.lastname@example.org.