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Legislative News and Views - Rep. Cheryl Youakim (DFL)

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Legislative Update- May 12, 2017

Friday, May 12, 2017

Dear Neighbors,

We are quickly approaching the legislative session adjournment deadline of May 22. Schedules remain very fluid and things are changing from one minute to the next. With all that happened this week, I thought I would reach out to you a little early and give you an update.


As of last week, the House and Senate Republican majorities are still far apart from Governor Dayton in their budget offers. Last Friday, the conference committees had completed their work and left their bills in committee while the Republican leadership of the House and Senate began negotiations with Governor Dayton.

Budget talks started last Friday and continued through the weekend to bring the session to an orderly end. But by late Monday night, House Speaker Kurt Daudt and Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka closed up the conference committees and sent all of the bills to the House and Senate floors for votes and eventually to the Governor for certain veto.

Governor Dayton has repeatedly said that he will negotiate on the budget in good faith without the 609 policy provisions that had been included in the bills. Many of those policy provisions face stiff opposition with Governor Dayton which he detailed in 159 pages of letters to Republican leadership. Now these omnibus bills are landing on Governor Dayton’s desk in rapid fashion and he will have three days upon their delivery to either sign or veto them.

I still have hope that negotiations will continue and we will be able to find some common ground. There are good and bad provisions in these bills but there is a way to find a balance. That being said, the $1.15 billion being spent in the Republican Tax bill is gobbling up a large portion of the state budget, as well as the surplus, including money that could be spent in our schools, on our transportation system and on the safety and health of Minnesotans. At a time of surplus, it’s essential that we invest in the things that have made Minnesota’s economy strong. The amount being spent on the Tax bill needs to come down if we are going to have a positive conclusion to the end of this session.

With less than two weeks left, I will continue to be engaged with our legislative leaders and Governor Dayton as we work for a compromise that prioritizes the things Minnesota values in order to build a better future for everyone.

Omnibus Bills Hit the Floor

On Tuesday and Wednesday we had a slew of omnibus bills (in the form of conference committee reports) hit the House floor. These bills had been held open for negotiations until the Republican House and Senate leadership decided to abandon negotiations, close up the bills and send them to the floor for a vote.

On Tuesday, along with a few individual non-controversial bills, we heard five omnibus bills: Environment and Natural Resources, Health and Human Services, Agricultural Finance, Education and State Government Finance. A brief description of them can be found below.

Environment & Natural Resources

This bill includes substantial cuts in environment and natural resources budgets as well as roll backs in protections for clean air, land, and water. It includes a two-year delay for buffer implementation and imposes other limitations, despite the fact that Governor Dayton has said he will veto legislation that weakens buffers. Other substantial problems include jeopardizing the Volkswagen Clean Air settlement money and eliminating the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) funding from the general fund budget. I voted no on the bill because I believe that we can do much better in the land of 10,000 lakes.

Health & Human Services

The health and human services budget is based on over $500 million in fake savings that cannot be proven and other shifts and gimmicks. The agreement removes access to affordable health insurance by eliminating MinnesotaCare and makes the assumption that healthcare costs won’t increase. And despite serious Federal uncertainty, Republicans plan to move Minnesotans from MNsure to the Federal insurance exchange. It also falls very short on funding time-tested programs that help some of the most vulnerable members of our community- our elderly and disabled. One other area that is neglected is Child care assistance (CCAP). Despite hearings across the state and in committee, acknowledging both the acute shortage and high cost of child care. Without reliable child care, people can't get to work to support themselves and their families. Rep. Peggy Flanagan explains the childcare issues well in this article.

Agricultural Finance

What is concerning about this bill is more about what is not in it than what is. This bill falls short on funding, it does not adequately fund the Agriculture Growth, Research and Innovation Programs and does not include a basic 2% increase for the Minnesota Department of Agriculture. A big disappointment is that it has zero funding for the Good Food Access Program. This program provides grants to increase access to affordable and nutritious food in underserved and low to moderate income communities. I did vote no on this bill, but I believe that a compromise will be easy to find.


Despite a budget surplus, the proposed K-12 Education Omnibus bill underfunds our schools. The proposed bill only has funding for a 1.5% increase a year, not even matching inflation. School districts have said that at least 2% is needed to keep up with current programing let alone if school populations increase. There are also many other provisions included in the bill that both Hopkins and St. Louis Park school districts have concerns with. For instance, with the Governor’s proposal, St. Louis Park schools would have received much needed increases funding for their early childhood program. But the Republican proposal zeroes out the Governor’s budget for voluntary public early childhood programs. Education has made Minnesota a leader, but we won’t continue to lead by underfunding our schools at a time of budget surplus. Instead, providing all Minnesota children a quality education should be our top priority. The lack of funding in the bill was the major reason that I voted no.

State Government Finance

The state government budget includes big cuts to core functions of state government, puts our cyber security at risk, and will lay off thousands of Minnesotans. One of the biggest concerns is the lack of funding for cyber security. Our state systems are full of our private information. The Governor’s budget requested $74 million in upgrades to our systems including much needed money for cyber security. The state faces almost 3 million hits a day from people who are trying to breach our data system. Unfortunately, my Republican colleagues have $0 in their budget to upgrade the safety of our systems. This is the third year in a row that requests have been made and ignored. This cyber security issue alone garnered my no vote on this bill.

On Wednesday, along with a few individual non-controversial bills, we heard only two omnibus bills on the floor: Taxes and Transportation.


In the Governor’s budget proposal from February he presented a Tax bill that cost roughly $400 million. When the GOP Senate put out their original proposal it was $900 million. The GOP House proposal was $1.25 billion. The House and Senate conference committee put together a Tax bill that proposes spending $1.13 billion with the majority of the bill spent decreasing business property tax. Another large portion is the removal of the Estate Tax for those who leave estates worth $2.5 million to $5.75 million, only 1,100 Minnesotans will benefit from this. While the bill includes minimal money for school bond relief for farmers, debt relief on college loans and a phase-out of tax on income from social security, it does virtually nothing for the majority of Minnesotans working families. It has no money for local government aid or county program aid to reduce property taxes, no renter’s credit or homestead credit relief and no increase for the working family income tax credit. While I voted yes on last year’s tax bill (that was vetoed), this one strayed so far away from those values I voted no. In a time of surplus, we can do much better for the majority of Minnesotans.


This omnibus bill has come a long way since it left the House floor but it still has a long way to go. It shifts $372 million a year out of the general fund which pits funding roads and bridges against funding our schools and Minnesotan’s healthcare. While the Republicans found more money for Metro Transit, the bill still cuts local bus service and chokes off operating funding for future light rail systems like Southwest and Bottineau. It also makes drastic structural changes to the Metropolitan Council that Governor Dayton has repeatedly said he would veto. I am happy to announce that the provisions that would have prohibited cities, counties, Met Council and rail authorities from funding the construction of light rail have been removed. But, there is still language in the bill that would make it nearly impossible to get federal money for projects like Southwest Light Rail. But, it is a step in the right direction. I spoke against this bill on the floor and voted no. I believe, with a little more negotiation and money infusion, that there is a compromise that can be found.

Constituents and Organizations

On Tuesday a group of students from Mankato State arrived to the Capitol. They had just completed a three day, 100 mile walk from Mankato to advocate for higher education funding. It was an honor to meet them and hear their stories about soaring tuition.

Later that afternoon I had the pleasure of meeting with a group of students from Hopkins North Junior High School. They were visiting the Capitol to see the renovations and learn more about the political process.

House Image

Yesterday, I joined a group of 30+ DFL House and Senate women in a meeting with Governor Mark Dayton and Lt. Governor Tina Smith. We advocated for paid family leave, access to quality healthcare and fair clean elections.

House Image

I also had a chance to visit the reception for the Coalition of Greater Minnesota Cities. They were at the Capitol advocating for increased local government aid as well as opposing the multitude of bills this session that remove local control. It is always a pleasure to meet with local officials; they are the closest to their communities and have great insight to what they need to maintain their cities’ quality of life.

Next week we will hear three more omnibus bills: Jobs & Energy, Higher Education and Public Safety. Then the “hurry up and wait” period will continue while the Governor and House/Senate leadership reconcile the budget. We have eleven more days of session and it should be an interesting ride. Schedules will remain fluid and negotiations among leadership can change things rapidly. It is very important to me to hear what your thoughts are as budget bills begin to wrap up. As always, please feel free to contact me with questions and issues. E-mail at is the best way to get in touch. If it is urgent, or you would like to schedule a meeting, please contact my office by phone at 651-296-9889.

Have a great weekend!