The 2015 Legislative Session has come to a close as lawmakers approved a two year state budget late Monday evening. There were a lot of skeptics going into this year’s session who thought that a Republican-led House and DFL-controlled Senate would be unable to work together. We were able to prove those skeptics wrong by working with the Senate to pass a bipartisan state budget, on time, that has a number of provisions that will benefit Greater Minnesota.
One of the big winners from this year’s session is rural nursing homes. Thanks to a change in the statewide reimbursement process, Minnesota nursing homes will be seeing an additional $138 million. This legislation will have a tremendous impact in our area as this increased funding will allow our nursing homes to more easily recruit and retain staff and ensure that residents receive the best possible care.
Additionally, our bipartisan health and human services budget includes a new reimbursement system that will give more funding to critical care hospitals. Critical care hospitals are hospitals that have 25 or fewer beds. 13% of all critical care hospitals in the state are located in our district.
Since day one, we have set out to ensure that every child—regardless of zip code—receives a world-class education. After listening to Minnesotans, we were able to develop a bipartisan education bill that puts kids first, partnering new money with innovative reforms.
- Highlights of this bill include:
- $400 million in additional education funding (including a 1.5% increase on the student formula in 2016 and 2% in 2017)
- An increase in the per pupil funding for every student across the state by an average of $205
- $60 million to prioritize early learners with funding for targeted pre-kindergarten scholarships
- Fewer mandated tests
- $3.5 million for the Reading Corps program
For farmers and other working in the agricultural industry, our agriculture budget does a lot to protect our food supply and promotes economic opportunities within the agricultural community. We also provided $16.5 million to the Department of Agriculture and Board of Animal Health in order to better prevent and respond to the avian flu outbreak that has devastated Minnesota turkey flocks.
Finally, I am disappointed to report that we were unable to agree on a comprehensive transportation package. This was due in large part to Senate Democrats and Governor Dayton’s insistence that any final package include a gas tax increase. This is especially frustrating considering that the House had passed a bipartisan supported transportation package, earlier this session, that would invest $7 billion over the next decade in Minnesota’s road and bridges without raising taxes. Nevertheless, I am certain that transportation will be among lawmakers’ top priorities next session as we look to find a long term solution to address our transportation infrastructure needs.
While we were unable to come to a comprehensive transportation package, we were still able to come to an agreement on a smaller transportation budget. Included in this budget was money that will be allocated to cities with populations under 5,000 for local road projects. This will be a great help to a number of communities in our area.
In conclusion, I am proud of the work that we were able to accomplish this year where we slowed the growth of government and invested in things that Minnesotans care most about without increasing taxes—all in a bipartisan manner.
It has been a privilege to serve as your state representative this legislative session. I remain committed to working hard for our District as we look to ensure that Minnesota remains a great place to live, work, and raise a family. Feel free to contact me, anytime, if you ever have a question regarding the legislature or a state agency.