Legislative session enters final stretch

Published 8:26 am Tuesday, April 29, 2014

A few short weeks remain before the Minnesota Legislature’s May 19 constitutional adjournment deadline.

Home heating assistance for low-income families, tax cuts for over one million middle class Minnesotans and a minimum wage increase are a few of our biggest accomplishments to date — but there is much more work to do in the days and weeks ahead.

Here is a quick look at some of the top priorities we will tackle during the final stretch of this year’s highly productive legislative session.

Email newsletter signup

Supplemental budget

The House of Representatives and Senate both passed separate but similar bills that invest a portion of our state’s budget surplus in priorities that build on Minnesota’s positive economic momentum. These bills are referred to as a “supplemental budget.”

The House proposal’s major components include $80 million in additional funding for home and community-based health care providers (an increase of 5 percent), $54 million in additional funding for Minnesota’s schools (an increase of $58 per student), $50 million for highways, roads, bridges and pothole repairs, $25 million to develop high-speed broadband internet service in Greater Minnesota and $1.5 million to expand a farm-to-food shelf program.

House and Senate lawmakers are currently working together in a conference committee to iron out the differences between each chamber’s proposals. After the committee produces a final version, the House and Senate will vote on the bill before sending it to the governor to be signed into law.

Bonding bill

Bonding bills are the traditional focus of even-year Legislative Sessions. State lawmakers are focused on a variety of issues this year, but passing a strong bipartisan bonding bill to finance statewide infrastructure projects in higher education, transportation, housing, economic development, water quality and wastewater treatment remain one of our top priorities.

House lawmakers released a proposal several weeks ago that includes $850 million in bonds and $125 million in one-time expenditures from Minnesota’s budget surplus. The proposal includes $2.5 million to acquire land and develop 11 miles of the Shooting Star Trail from Rose Creek to Austin – an initiative that will help draw more tourists to southeastern Minnesota and allow more families and individuals to experience our region’s beautiful landscape and wildlife. The entire House will vote on that proposal sometime in the next several weeks.

The Senate is expected to release their proposal on Monday, April 28. Once each chamber passes their respective bonding bills, a conference committee will work out any differences before a final bill is sent to the Governor.

Additional property tax relief

Earlier this month, House lawmakers passed a second tax cut bill that provides additional property tax relief for farmers, homeowners, renters and businesses.

Our proposal includes $18 million in property tax relief for more than 90,000 homesteaded farms (with the average family farmer receiving a $460 refund), $12.1 million in tax relief for 500,000 homeowners (with every eligible homeowner receiving a three percent boost to their refund this year), and $12.5 million in tax relief for 350,000 renters (with every eligible renter receiving a six percent boost to their refund this year).

The Senate passed a separate tax cut bill shortly after the House approved our own version. Differences between the two bills will be resolved in a conference committee before the final version can be sent to the governor.

Women’s Economic Security Act

Both the House and Senate recently passed similar versions of the Women’s Economic Security Act, legislation that will help to close the gender pay gap so women earn equal pay for equal work, strengthen protections for pregnant women in the workplace and increase opportunities for women to enter high-wage, high-demand professions.

Much like the Legislature’s other unfinished business, a conference committee will resolve differences between each bill before House and Senate lawmakers send a final version to the governor to be signed into law.

Minnesotans can expect the Legislature to finish our work on time for the second year in a row. I am looking forward to making more progress on priorities that will keep our state on a path toward economic growth and shared prosperity.