Last Wednesday, we heard the Transportation Omnibus bill. All of the DFL's proposed higher taxes and fees were removed from the final deal, and the bill included $18 million for small cities, $12 million for town roads, $5.5 million for local roads, and $14 million for local bridges. There is $27 million to expand I94 to six lanes at Albertville. Finally, the bill reopens all 93 driver's testing locations in Minnesota, which is a huge issue in Greater Minnesota. This will hopefully drastically cut down on wait times for scheduling driver's tests.
We debated the Housing bill on Thursday. It is extremely disappointing that the Housing Omnibus bill had no language included to address the causes of the current housing shortage and the high cost of homeownership in Minnesota compared to nearby states, like burdensome regulations that drive up the cost of building new houses. Additionally, the eviction moratorium off-ramp that was included in the bill pushes the moratorium out nearly a year for some people, and has the potential of leaving housing providers who have tenants that refuse to cooperate without any reimbursement of over 15 months of back rent. However, passing an eviction moratorium was one of the final pieces of the Governor's reasoning behind keeping his emergency powers. With this passed, there is no reason for the Governor to keep hanging on to this peacetime emergency until August 1st or later.
On Friday, we heard the Omnibus Jobs and Economic Development bill, as well as the Omnibus Environment bill. Unfortunately, this bill included zero provisions to assist employers in bringing back employees, even as so many employers are struggling to fully staff their businesses. The bill does very little to help businesses in the industries that have been impacted most by the Governor's shutdowns, such as restaurants, bars, hotels, and event centers, along with many other related industries. This bill, frankly, does very little to help struggling businesses and instead focuses on earmarking money for DFL priorities.
We debated the Education and Health and Human Services bills on Saturday. The Omnibus Education bill provides the largest increase to the education base formula in over a decade, increasing it by 2.45% in fiscal year 2022 and another 2% in fiscal year 2023. All controversial policies were stripped out in negotiations, however the bill still does not include any provisions that would make absolutely sure students return to in-person learning this fall.
The Health and Human Services bill has one glaring omission - our nation-leading reinsurance program, which has stabilized our individual health insurance market for years. The Democrats' refusal to fully authorize this program for the coming years could cause an estimated 25-30% jump in health insurance costs for families all across Minnesota. The bill also fails to rein in health care spending, which continues to grow unchecked.
None of these bills were negotiated in public, and the House Republican minority caucus members were kept out of the room and out of the negotiation meetings. Additionally, just like the bills last week, they had only perfunctory informational hearings in the committees of jurisdiction, with no public testimony or opportunity for amendments in the one committee that did hold official public meetings, the Ways and Means Committee. This is, once again, not the way the Legislature should be operating. I voted NO on all of these bills for the reasons listed above and the lack of transparency.
The remaining bills to close out this special budget session will be Public Safety and Judiciary, State Government Finance, and Taxes.
Please Contact Me
As always, if you need assistance on an issue pertaining to state government or have concerns or ideas about legislation, my office is available to you. You can e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or call my office at 651-296-5063. You can also write a letter to me. My office address at the Capitol is 357 State Office Building, 100 Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd, St. Paul, MN 55155.