In a special session that adjourned early Saturday morning, the Minnesota Legislature passed the remaining bills to fund state government, agencies, and consumer services for the next two years. In total, the legislature passed eleven budget bills; each bill awaits action by Governor Tim Walz.
“When I’m up in the district I often hear from people who are frustrated with the status quo in government and the inability of legislators to find compromise and do what is right for our residents and taxpayers,” said Senator Justin Eichorn (R-Grand Rapids). “I think this session we delivered some change that should give folks something to be proud of. For years, our taxpayers have been made an afterthought. But this session, we continued our commitment to fix crumbling roads, we increased funding for our schools, took care of our vulnerable citizens, and secured the first income tax cuts in years. There is certainly more we can do, but this should bring some relief to our constituents who are working harder than ever but are ending up with less.”
As Minnesota finally conforms to the federal tax code, Minnesotans will also see the first middle-class income tax cut in nearly two decades. The second-tier income tax bracket, which impacts couples earning between $37,850 and $150,380 and individuals earning between $25,890 and $85,060, will drop from 7.05% to 6.8%.
Public schools will receive a per-pupil funding increase of two percent in each of the next two years – a major investment that amounts to an increase of $2.13 million for Bemidji and Grand Rapids public schools. The legislature also approved $90 million to help cover the rising costs of special education and provides districts with funding for safety enhancements.
Billions will be invested in Minnesota’s transportation infrastructure – without raising the gas tax, vehicle sales tax, or license plate tab fees. Compared to the previous budget, an additional $275 million will be appropriated for statewide road construction, delivery, and maintenance. The departments of transportation and public safety will be audited next year to ensure accountability and transparency within state agencies and a long-term fix for the fatally flawed MNLARS program will begin development was also funded.
Health and human services, the largest area of the state budget, will spend more than $15 billion over the next two years on health care and social services. The budget includes new prescription drug transparency requirements, an insulin program for individuals in need, and funding for mental health services. Landmark protections for elderly and vulnerable Minnesotans will go into effect next year, including the explicit right of senior care facility residents to place cameras in their rooms and funding for more agency staff to assist with questions or complaints. In addition, the successful health insurance premium security program will remain in place – a proven method for lowering health insurance rates for families, farmers, and small businesses.
Finally, the legislature passed an additional $40 million for rural broadband expansion, more funding to protect the state against cybersecurity threats, additional funding for dozens of new corrections officers, and an investment in workforce training programs and technical education programs. In addition to passing legislation aimed at making college textbooks more affordable, the legislature expanded the state grant program and capped in-state tuition at most public colleges and universities in Minnesota.