Poppe: Transportation will have to wait until next year

Published 10:10 am Thursday, May 21, 2015

The 2015 regular session of the Minnesota Legislature concluded at midnight, Monday, May 18. The first year of the biennium requires the legislature to set the financial budgets within each spending category for the next two years. Fiscal bills must be passed by the legislature and signed by the governor by July 1, if not, spending categories not funded within state government will shut down.

This session was supposed to be the transportation session. The transportation needs in our state require stable and sustainable funding to pay for infrastructure. Unfortunately, the House majority (Republicans) and the Senate majority (DFL) couldn’t agree on a comprehensive transportation funding plan. This means the state transportation budget will not be adjusted to meet all needs and only is being funded this year with what is categorized as a “lights on” budget. We will likely need to wait until next year to see what can be done to address our transportation and infrastructure needs.

Along with no substantial transportation bill, there also was no agreement on a tax bill. With no tax bill there will be no changes to tax policy including no tax cuts. With no tax bill, there will not be property tax relief for farmers or homeowners. With no tax bill, there will be no adjustment to the formula for local government aid.



Email newsletter signup

Gov. Dayton announced Tuesday he will veto the E-12 education bill because it does not adequately invest in education including pre-k programming for four-year-olds. The additional cost for this voluntary initiative will be about $150 million. With the state having nearly a $2 billion budget surplus, the additional cost for investing in this initiative is well within the ability of the state’s budget.

With the regular session over here is an overview of other legislation that did pass. As the DFL caucus lead for the Agriculture Finance committee the final bill included many DFL initiatives and was supported in a strong bipartisan way. Notable for spending is the significant amount of money for Avian Influenza response, analysis and research. This bill also takes a major step forward by supporting increased biobased production incentives to boost economic opportunities using agriculture and forest products. This was a major compromise between agriculture, environment, and biofuels communities. The Ag finance bill included proposals to study expanding agriculture trade to Cuba, provides money to expand food hubs to make it easier to sell fresh food locally and increases Ag education through the state.

Also of note, the Agriculture policy bill passed the House overwhelmingly and has already been signed into law. The policy bill updates the state’s seed library laws and the state’s laws for agri-tourism.

Unfortunately the agriculture finance bill, which had very strong bipartisan support, was tied to the environment bill which had provisions many environmentalists found controversial. One positive outcome in this combined bill includes an agreed upon buffers proposal for waterways in our state. This takes a significant step in the right direction to improve water quality. The combined bill passed the House with my support.

The public safety bill provides significant funds for the Minnesota court system, public defenders, and law enforcement. This bill passed the House with my support 116-15.

The Health and Human Services finance bill does not provide a pay increase of 5 percent to caregivers which is unfortunate. But it also does not eliminate MinnesotaCare which is a health insurance program used by thousands of families and individuals throughout the state. It does increase necessary nursing home funding by $138 million and spends additional dollars for dementia research. The bill also includes $55 million to help children who are abused, homeless, or victims of sex-trafficking, as well as $63 million to help improve Minnesota’s fractured mental health system. This bill passed the House 99-31 with my support.

The bill funded by the sales tax increase from the 2008 constitutional amendment referred to as the “legacy” bill did not make it through the process in the last hours of session so is likely to be included in a Special Session agenda. Likewise a bonding bill funding the additional needs at the Capitol and some disaster relief for Scott County did not make it to the House chamber in time for a vote before adjournment.

Gov. Mark Dayton is still reviewing the finance bills and will decide which bills will be signed into law or will be vetoed. Once that happens the House and Senate majorities will have a better idea of how much work is left from this session. The governor will need to call the legislature back into session to finish the budget prior to July 1. That date has not yet been determined and is complicated by the fact the Capitol renovation now includes disassembling the House Chamber making it no longer available to use.

If you have any question I can be reached by phone at 651-296-4193, by mail at 291 State Office Building, 100 Martin Luther King Blvd., St. Paul, MN 55155, or via email at rep.jeanne.poppe@house.mn. For those who would like to receive my e-updates from the Capitol sign up on my legislative webpage, www.house.leg.state.mn.us/27b.