Poppe: A timeline for the end of session

Published 7:27 am Saturday, April 29, 2017

Conference committees have been meeting to prepare omnibus finance bills to bring back to the House and Senate. To secure agreements and bring bills out of conference committee, Republican leadership in the House and Senate must agree on legislative budget targets, which were released on Friday, April 28.

Gov. Mark Dayton’s signature is necessary to turn bills into law, so he must be agreeable to the negotiated budget targets set by the Legislative leaders.

The negative budget numbers in the original House budget bills are causing concern. With a $1.65 billion surplus, it is disheartening to see bills that underfund our schools and challenge our colleges, and the legislative budget target for higher education is $200 million less than the governor’s proposal.

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But few budgeting decisions made by House Republicans are worse than the $600 million cut to the Health and Human Services budget. It includes no money for home health care workers, no funding for child care, and no funding for local public health grants.

The Best Life Alliance, a coalition that advocates for home and community-based services, has been attempting to secure a badly needed 4 percent raise for the state’s home health care workers.

These caregivers help the most vulnerable among us — the elderly, the developmentally disabled, and the mentally ill — yet are quickly leaving the industry because of low pay and high stress. As more leave, the shortage of workers becomes even worse and, with no raise, makes it harder to attract caregivers to available jobs.

In the 2016-2017 biennium, 42 percent of state dollars went into K-12 education with an additional 8 percent going into higher education. Government investment in health and human services made up 28 percent. Underfunding and cutting these vital initiatives will result in fewer teachers, higher tuition, and more Minnesotans with limited health care.

Environmental legislation

In 2008, Minnesotans approved constitutionally dedicated money to fund water quality, arts, and parks and trails around the state. Differences between the House and Senate versions of the Legacy Finance bill must be resolved in conference committee. Concerns regarding the allocations for soil and water conservation districts and how their money is distributed exist.

The Legislative Citizen Commission on Minnesota Resources (LCCMR) was created to recommend projects paid for by the Environment and Natural Resources Trust Fund, which uses lottery money for environmental research, education, and land acquisition. Local governments, nonprofits, and scientists apply for funding before the 17-member Commission. The LCCMR recommends how the state should spend the money. While it isn’t required that we follow their recommendations, it also doesn’t seem right to cut hundreds of millions of dollars in projects recommended by the LCCMR, which is happening in this bill.

Listening to experts and considering their recommendations should be a central component in dealing with these issues, as it also helps to avoid further politicization of our resources.

The session is constitutionally required to adjourn on May 22, so it is vitally important we work toward a productive and timely end.