Minnesota lawmakers have completed their $ 52 billion budget. This is what it means for you
It was a tense few weeks in St. Paul as lawmakers moved around and dealt to the last day, with a state budget shutdown at stake if they failed to meet their constitutional deadline of Wednesday, June 30.
In classic legislative style, lawmakers delivered a few 11th hour surprises, including a bipartisan deal to end Governor Tim Walz’s peacetime coronavirus emergency and corresponding powers.
Once the budget is done, Minnesotans can breathe a sigh of relief knowing that their state parks are funded, essential agencies won’t shut down, and perks like rental assistance and SNAP benefits won’t experience any decline. hiccups.
Even with massive spending of $ 52 billion, the budget contains no tax increases. In fact, it is benefiting from a tax cut of nearly $ 1 billion, aimed at helping struggling businesses that have received federal stimulus funds to weather the pandemic, as well as Minnesotans who have used allowances. unemployment rates widened during the recession. The Minnesota Department of Revenue said Thursday it has started adjusting tax returns and qualifying Minnesotans will automatically receive refunds.
The fun may not be over in St. Paul, however, with the Senate remaining in town. With the House adjourned, the body cannot pass major legislation on its own, but they could potentially oust members of Walz’s cabinet as they did last year.
Here is an overview of the main elements of the budget:
After more than a year of disrupted learning, lawmakers in Minnesota pledged to invest heavily in education to help make up for lost time – and to address the disparities in learning outcomes that preceded the pandemic of coronavirus.
The state education budget includes a 2.45% funding increase over current levels in its first year, and a subsequent 2% increase over that amount in its second year. . This equates to the largest increase in Minnesota funding for public education in 15 years, at $ 1.1 billion over four years.
Major educational policy victories for Democrats include preserving the state’s 4,000 preschool places, a program to recruit and retain teachers of color, and investments in special education and programs. learning English. Republicans celebrated that with more than $ 1 billion in increased funding, there were no new mandates for schools, and most of the money “will be sent directly to local school districts, which they will give the possibility to spend it for the specific needs of their districts “.
House Education Finance President Jim Davnie, DFL-Minneapolis, said in a June 26 statement that the compromised budget “was a stubborn victory for students and families in Minnesota, especially after an unprecedented year of COVID. -19 ”.
“Our education budget provides students and families with the tools they need to recover from the challenges of the pandemic and thrive in the future,” he said.
And Senate Education Committee Chairman Roger Chamberlain R-Lino Lakes said the Republicans’ philosophy has been consistent from day one of the session: we will focus on students, not systems; on parents and families, not on lobbyists and institutions.
“I am proud to say that this education budget achieves these goals,” he said. “This fantastic bill is a huge victory for students, families, teachers and local schools in Minnesota.”
By far the most difficult budget to negotiate between Republicans and Democrats, according to executives, was the state’s public safety budget. While the budget’s primary constitutional obligation is to fund law enforcement, the judiciary, and criminal labs in the state of Minnesota, it has also become the epicenter of lawmakers’ debate over the role of the police and on how the state can hold them accountable.
At the forefront of the negotiations was the group of people of color and natives, which kept the pressure on a resistant Republican caucus in the Senate to push forward with more policing and accountability. Immediately after the murder of George Floyd last summer, the Minnesota Legislature passed a series of police reforms, but the POCI Caucus maintained for a year that this was not enough.
On police reforms, the budget includes new regulations on the use of no-strike warrants, as well as reforms to a national database to track allegations of police misconduct. But Democrats have failed to end traffic stops for minor vehicle offenses and change policies to release body camera images to families more quickly if police kill loved ones. Senate Republicans would not budge on the issue, refusing to adopt policies they believe would make the job of law enforcement more difficult.
House Majority Leader Ryan Winkler, D-Golden Valley, told reporters on Thursday, July 1, “It’s obviously disappointing” that Democrats couldn’t get Republicans to go through with it , but “I think enough of our caucus felt like they could look at themselves in the mirror and say, ‘There was nothing more we could do.’
“People also need to feel like they’re engaged in a problem, they need to feel like they’ve gone the last mile, they’ve pushed as far as they can,” Winkler said. “You saw there was a bit of a wobble on the Public Safety Bill when it was finally passed in the Senate. I think that is an indicator that we have taken it as far as possible. We made the Senate accept as much as we could. “
The public safety budget comes with a number of other policy changes, including the creation of an office to investigate missing and murdered Indigenous relatives, the closing of Minnesota’s controversial “self-poisoning” rift in sexual assault cases, forfeiture of civilian assets and fines and fees reforms, salary increases for state soldiers and more.
Health and social services
Funding public health and social programs, this year’s health and social services budget shed light on child care, Minnesota disability assistance, behavioral and mental health care, telehealth and a concerted effort to improve maternal outcomes in the state.
Senator Michelle Benson, R-Ham Lake, who chairs the Senate health and social services committee, said in a June 26 statement that the budget negotiated between Republicans and Democrats “supports initiatives to help families workers, especially mothers and their babies ”, as well as the expansion of telehealth to improve the accessibility and affordability of health care.
Overall, Benson said the investments will help strengthen the state’s healthcare system as it continues to recover from the pandemic. Republicans also maintained reinsurance, a program Democrats fought against, but Republicans say it helps stabilize health insurance costs in the state.
Among the Democrats’ victories in the budget were gigantic investments in child care, in part thanks to coronavirus assistance from the federal government. Child care providers will receive $ 300 million in grants over the next two years, 70% of which will go towards increasing the wages of their employees. An additional $ 30 million will be spent on upgrading facilities and training. Lawmakers are also creating a task force to study the current landscape of child care and early learning in Minnesota, which Democrats say “was in crisis even before the pandemic – unaffordable and unattainable.”
Representative Dave Pinto, D-St. Paul, who chairs the House early childhood committee, said in a June 28 statement that “investments in the early years are the most profitable for both individuals and for society.”