With a special legislative session drawing to a close, Sen. Jerry Relph (R-St. Cloud) and his colleagues passed a complete state budget and bonding bill. The bonding bill and the tax relief, transportation, health and human services, state government, and K-12 education budgets are on their way to the governor’s desk, along with the budgets passed during the regular session. Gov. Dayton has indicated he will sign them into law.
“Minnesotans deserve a balanced investment in our future – and that is what our budgets deliver,” said Sen. Relph. “With the largest tax relief package in two decades, the largest investment in roads and bridges since 2008, and an education budget that prioritizes students, teachers, and schools, these budgets can make our entire state proud.”
The education budget couples $1.3 billion in new K-12 funding over the next two years with reforms that prioritize the needs of students, teachers, and schools. The bill includes a 2% increase to the per pupil formula allowance, increasing the formula by $310 per pupil compared to current law – giving school districts more flexibility in meeting the needs of their students. It also overhauls Minnesota’s teacher licensure system and the “last in, first out” teacher seniority law. Finally, the bill contains funding for agricultural and career and technical education in rural school districts.
A $648 million tax relief package provides the first meaningful tax cuts in nearly two decades. A phase-out on seniors’ Social Security income taxes, tax relief for recent college graduates paying off student loans, property tax relief for small businesses, and relief for farmers are all included in the package.
The transportation budget provides $300 million in new funding over the previous budget – without a gas tax or license tab fee increase. More than 8,800 miles of roadway and 200 bridges will be repaired or replaced under the budget. In addition, the transportation bill contains a provision that takes taxpayers off the hook for the $50 million tab of costs related to the potential billion-dollar Southwest Light Rail project.
Finally, the bonding bill includes several provisions relevant to the greater St. Cloud community. Included in the bill is $18.5 million in funding for student health and academic renovation at St. Cloud State University, along with $19 million in funding for badly-needed safety improvements at the Minnesota Corrections Facility-St. Cloud.
“These budgets signify a compromise between meeting our constitutional obligations and attempting to begin reducing the size of government. They will do tremendous good for our communities and for Minnesota,” Sen. Relph continued.
Sen. Relph is in his first term representing Senate District 14, which includes St. Cloud, Waite Park, St. Augusta, and other communities in Benton, Sherburne, and Stearns counties.