Last Friday, the legislature held a Special Session to conclude work that was left undone during the regular session. Like many of you, I was frustrated by the need for a special session and disappointed that a bipartisan compromise was not reached sooner, and refused to take any per diem for my expenses.
I am pleased that the special session has concluded and that all sides were able to come to an agreement in time to avoid a government shutdown.
Here is some information about the legislation we passed during the special session and the work that remains going forward.
Why did we need a Special Session?
On the final night of this year’s regular legislative session, the House Majority and Governor Dayton were just $25 million apart in their proposals for funding education, but failed to reach a compromise. After session, three bills, including the education bill, were vetoed by Governor Dayton. A special session was required to pass these budget bills before July 1, 2015 or the state would have faced a partial government shutdown.
What happened with the final budget?
I advocated for and am pleased that the final budget improved upon our investment in Minnesota’s kids and future. After years of cuts to the classroom during the Great Recession, this funding of 2% on the funding formula for the next two years will help adequately fund classrooms and provide more opportunities for our earliest learners.
What else was resolved in the Special Session?
The legislature was able to somewhat improve the jobs and energy bill, although I opposed the provision that lessens incentives for people to use solar for their energy needs. We also fixed some of the drafting errors that occurred in the rush to finish the regular session. In addition, the legislature passed an omnibus environment and agriculture bill that included some good provisions to address our state’s avian flu crisis and implemented ag buffers, although I opposed the elimination of the Minnesota Pollution Control’s Citizen Board. We need to increase opportunities for citizens’ voices to be heard, not decrease them.
We also passed a small bonding bill that includes infrastructure projects throughout the state.
What didn’t get done this year?
Unfortunately, the legislature left much work undone. Fixing our state’s roads and bridges was a top priority for many, but a “lights on” transportation bill was all that was accomplished because the legislature could not agree on a way to fund our needed fixes to roads and bridges. Tuition at our public colleges and universities are also expected to go up next year due to underfunding in the higher education budget. The House Majority also failed to pass a tax bill this session—meaning no tax relief for businesses, residents or property was provided this year.
What should be our priority next year?
With a $1.9 billion surplus and growing economy, we missed many opportunities this session to improve our state for hardworking Minnesota families. We should look for ways to make college more affordable and reduce student debt, pass a bipartisan transportation compromise that will fix our state’s transportation system, continue to improve our state’s world class education system for all kids, and provide reasonable and sustainable tax relief for our citizens and MN businesses.
How can you reach me?
With the Special Session concluded I invite you to stay in touch.. We have more work to do next session and I’d love to hear your priorities. Please contact me anytime. As always, thank you for the honor of representing you at the Capitol.