This week, 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.
During the debate on the bill, I spoke to the University of Minnesota’s claim of being “underfunded” by the Legislature. This claim comes from the Legislature not fully funding their additional request. After examining their finances, it is clear to see that they have flush reserves and a large endowment. However, they still want to raise tuition on instate students, even if the Legislature fully funded their additional request. This is wrong and I hope the University does not go through with increasing tuition on Minnesota students.
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.
Fixing our roads and bridges should be done with money that has already been collected. Given the large budget surplus, now is not the time to increase taxes on Minnesotans.
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:
- Cass: $218,364
- Todd: $135,739
- Wadena: $65,458
- 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
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
- Creating a dedicated Pollinator Habitat and Research account
State Government Finance:
The House also passed the State Government Finance bill, which contains a lot of good provisions for our military veterans.
- Expanding GI Bill flexibility to include apprenticeships and on-the-job training benefits and other professional and educational benefits
- Funding programs to help veterans achieve home ownership and veterans returning from active duty with PTSD who get caught up in the legal system
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 now head to a conference committee with the Senate where the final details will be worked on before heading to the Governor’s desk for his consideration.
Last weekend, I met with local elk farmer: Jerry Campbell. It was great to be able to connect with him and learn more about his sector of agriculture.
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