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Legislative News and Views - Rep. John Burkel (R)

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Legislative Update from Rep. John Burkel

Thursday, April 4, 2024

Hello from the State Capitol,


Work continues in our House finance committees as they try to meet their new spending targets. In the environment committee on which I serve, we heard MPCA and DNR recommendations this week, and the agriculture committee is also hearing requests. All of this is happening because of the new budget spending agreement made by the Democrat majority in the House and Senate and Governor Walz.



The budget target agreed to by the DFL trifecta spends at least another $512 million on state government this year. Last session, they agreed to spend our nearly $18 billion budget surplus, raise taxes by $10 billion, and grow government by roughly 40%. Minnesota is now projected to spend $70.5 billion this biennium, and that’s before the additional $512 million is added.


Instead of recognizing that we are projected to see a budget deficit next year and getting spending under control, they will be increasing spending at an even more unsustainable pace.



This week, superintendents Shawn Yates from Warroad and Jeffrey Lund from Marshall County Central school districts visited me at the State Capitol. Despite “historic” funding increases for schools last year, nearly every superintendent I speak with tells me there’s not enough money to go around. 


The problems center on the K-12 bill approved last session, when the majority party approved 65 new mandates for schools, many of which force schools to spend money on specific things. In other words, new funding arrived but with strings attached. Those strings have now caused many schools to have less money to work with than they did before the “historic” funding arrived.


For example, they are struggling to implement the Read Act, which requires districts to adopt a local literacy plan from among three programs approved by the state Department of Education. Prior to last year, districts could develop and implement their own reading approach, so this has been a major, costly change. They’re also having problems with new safe and sick time requirements and many others, as well as the ongoing challenge of hiring new teachers.


The legislature needs to recognize that these financial changes have made it extremely difficult for schools to operate, and we should be looking at ways to provide them with relief from all of the unfunded mandates that were approved last year.



On Tuesday, the House Agriculture Finance and Policy Committee heard an update on Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza (HPAI) from the Minnesota Board of Animal Health. Spring migration patterns bring significantly higher transmission risks to the poultry industry and the board’s work to ensure strong biosecurity plans were highlighted.  


The Ag Committee also received an update on a Stevens County goat that tested HPAI positive back in March as well as details about the current influenza situation in the nation’s dairy herd. The signs being reported in the affected states include the substantial decrease in feed consumption of affected cows, decreased rumen and gut motility and a drop or halt in milk production. Sick cows in these affected herds are quarantined and the affected animals have recovered after isolation. There continues to be no concern about the safety of the commercial milk supply because products are pasteurized before entering the market. Dairies are required to send only milk from healthy animals into processing for human consumption; milk from impacted animals is being diverted or destroyed so that it does not enter the human food supply.  


“This finding is significant because, while the spring migration is definitely a higher risk transmission period for poultry, it highlights the possibility of the virus infecting other animals on farms with multiple species,” said State Veterinarian, Dr. Brian Hoefs. “Thankfully, research to-date has shown mammals appear to be dead-end hosts, which means they’re unlikely to spread HPAI further.”


The Minnesota Board of Animal Health is still gathering information and assessing potential impacts for Minnesota producers, which appear to be minimal. As always, producers should report any illnesses in their animals to their herd veterinarian immediately and implement heightened biosecurity to protect their herd.



A round of applause for the Greenbush Gators who are competing this weekend at the First Robotics Competition and recently earned a We Work For Health STEM grant.



Inspired by your creativity, problem-solving, and teamwork!