Nelson: Senate approves bills to strengthen agriculture, higher education, energy, and commerce

On bipartisan votes today, the Minnesota Senate passed comprehensive budget bills related to agriculture, higher education, and commerce and energy

“The Senate’s budget strengthens our commitment to core priorities in agriculture, higher education, energy, and commerce,” said Senator Carla Nelson (R-Rochester). “The reason these bills gained bipartisan support is that we made an attempt to strike a broad balance and work across the aisle. These aren’t partisan issues; it’s about doing what is best for Minnesotans.”


The Senate’s agriculture budget helps our agricultural community recover from the pandemic by strengthening our Ag sector supply chains and invests in helping more meat processing facilities expand and grow. It provides historic funding for the Border-to-Border Broadband Grant program at $40 million over the next two fiscal years to develop permanent broadband infrastructure in unserved and underserved areas. Additionally, the budget includes grants for farm safety equipment and allows the creation of a grain storage facility safety curriculum, as well as mental health outreach on farms and additional mental health services, like the state’s 24-hour crisis hotline.

Higher education

Making college more affordable is at the heart of the Senate’s higher education budget. The bill includes a 10% reduction of the family contribution in the state grant program. The bill makes additional investments in college affordability, including a $4 million increase in workforce scholarships, requiring 8 more colleges to offer zero-textbook cost associates degrees, requiring a 5% tuition cut for students attending Minnesota State schools, and a 3% tuition cut for U of M students. Furthermore, the bill establishes a new grant program that allows teens who entered foster care to attend college for free at any participating public or private school in Minnesota.

Commerce and Energy

The Senate continues funding for the state’s successful reinsurance program, a proven solution that has already saved Minnesotans money on the costs of healthcare. In 2016 insurance premiums for the individual market increased by double digits due to changes from the Affordable Care Act. The Senate drove the creation of a new reinsurance program, and as a result Minnesota now has some of the lowest rates in the country. The Senate already voted in bipartisan fashion earlier this year to continue the reinsurance program through 2022.

The energy portion of the Senate’s budget focuses on measured, thoughtful changes to Minnesota’s energy and telecom policy. It contains comprehensive funding for the two-year energy budget and renewable energy development. The bill provides $8 million for the Solar Rewards Program and establishes a new Solar for Schools Program to provide grants to aid in the installation of solar energy systems on or adjacent to school buildings. This would allow schools to use the solar energy system as a teaching tool that can be integrated into the school’s curriculum. 

This bill maintains Minnesota’s strong and reliable energy system while also encouraging innovation in emerging technologies for cleaner energy sources. The bill abolishes the current nuclear moratorium, which would allow the state to consider new nuclear-powered plants as part of our future energy mix. The bill will also aid in expanding Minnesota’s broadband market to provide robust broadband to all corners of the state, and modernize the crucial telecom market.