Friends and neighbors,
The morning of May 25, we adjourned for the last time this session. This year, we focused on creating a balanced budget without raising taxes while funding the priority of Minnesotans. From education, to transportation, to taxes, we produced significant reform with responsible spending.
In the Veterans committee, we focused on funding for Military Affairs, Veterans Affairs and other important services and programs. As chair of the committee, I authored a bill to establish a Medal of Honor Commemorative Memorial. It will be added to the Capitol mall encircling the “Promise of Youth” sculpture near the Veterans service building. The Veterans budget also appropriated funds to the Armed Forces Service Center at the MSP airport. This center is open 24 hours a day and 365 days a year, providing members of the Armed Services, Department of Defense, U.S. Public Health Services personnel, veterans and their families a space to step away from the busyness of the airport and enjoy a little relaxation. The program has served nearly one million people. It is typically run by volunteers and donations, and we appropriated extra funding for updates to maintain this unique amenity.
Future newsletters will include additional details in each budget area. But for now, here are some of the highlights:
- Invests $40 million in rural broadband to increase access to underserved portions of our state
- Funding for access to mental health services for Minnesota farmers facing economic difficulties
Commerce/Jobs and Economic Growth/Energy:
- Finds savings in state agencies and funds the Prepare and Prosper program that introduces low-income Minnesotans to the banking system encouraging active participation in the state’s economy
- Invests in vocational programs to continue growing a strong work force and spends $3 million on continued Wage Theft Prevention
- Does not include radical energy policies, but compromises with provisions for energy storage studies and solar energy initiatives
- Improves access to mental health services for students
- Increases funding for every school district in the state
Environment and Natural Resources:
- Three additional free admission days to State Parks and the zoo
- Funding for the control of Aquatic Invasive Species and Chronic Wasting Disease
Health and Human Services:
- Addresses the ongoing child care assistance fraud scandal with stronger oversight measures and stricter reporting requirements that will restore integrity
- Provides support for reduced cost-sharing for insulin and other medications
- Funds student mental health services and shelter-based youth mental health grants
- Invests over $18 million in the Minnesota State Grant Program, which provides financial assistance to low-income students at all higher education institutions in the state, including private college and universities
- Includes significant expansion of the Workforce Development Scholarship Program by including additional training programs
Judiciary and Public Safety:
- After the attacks over the last year that have resulted in injury and even officer death, an increase of $10.3 million for the Department of Corrections will fund 67 additional officers, security upgrades, and a boosted pay structure for guards.
- A Sexual Assault Task Force will be established to update and clarify law, so police agencies and prosecutors have the tools they need to seek justice for victims.
State Government and Veterans:
- Reduces state government spending, holding state agencies accountable for less waste and improved efficiency
- Includes the full federal Help America Vote Act (HAVA) appropriation
- Guarantees the first middle-class tax cut in 18 years
- Does not include the 20-cent gas tax proposed by Governor Walz
- Local options sales tax approved for several cities around the state
- Decommissions MNLARS and replaces it with a new third-party vendor system that will shorten wait times and eliminate glitches. This solution was a product of the Governor’s Blue Ribbon Council on Information Technology that Senator Koran was appointed to earlier this year.
- Even without a gas tax or tab fee increases, transportation funding increased to fund additional road construction and innovative project.
I am proud of the work we accomplished this year in the Senate and the Veterans committee. We are already looking forward to next year!
Happy Father’s Day
I hope you all enjoy the weekend! I was blessed with a wonderful father and I am thankful for his example as my family has grown. Being a father and grandfather is a wonderful gift. So, to all of you – have a great day and enjoy time with your family!
If you have any questions about these issues, please feel free to contact me any time. My phone number is 651-296-5981, and my email is email@example.com.