2015 Legislative Session Brings Big Wins to the Northwoods

ST. PAUL, MINN – During this legislative session, Senator Tom Saxhaug (DFL-Grand Rapids) was happy to have passed bills into law that contained a number of high-profile issues.

In the education bill, Saxhaug advocated for the American Indian students, citing the gross disparity in assistance compared to the rest of Minnesota students. He argued it was an issue of equity. Increasing aid to the schools with higher American Indian populations will help dozens of school districts across the state.

The E-12 bill which was passed in a Special Session last weekend included the following:

  • $9.5 million for FY16-17 in Indian Education Formula Aid. This is new money on top of the existing aid and will help local districts.
  • $5 million for Bureau of Indian Affairs schools.
  • $350.5 million for a 2 percent per pupil funding formula increase in FY16 and FY17.
    • This formula increase means schools will receive an additional $117/per student in FY16 and $119/per pupil in FY17.
  • $48.25 million for Early Learning Scholarships to help low-income families send their children to pre-k programming in order to be prepared for Kindergarten.
  • $30.75 million for School Readiness – a proven program that helps prepare Minnesota 4-year-olds for Kindergarten.

“The nearly $15 million in new money for American Indian students across the state is a huge step forward in properly funding these students and the schools that serve them. This money will help strengthen and expand programs to support academic achievement, decrease the dropout rate and improve the school climate to be more culturally sensitive,” said Saxhaug.

Saxhaug also fought for new money for a number of forestry-related programs including:

  • $500,000 for FY16 and $1.5 million for FY17 to provide an advanced biofuels production incentive. This new program came together through the work of a timber, agriculture and environmental experts who all agree this incentives program will make Minnesota one of the best places in the world to practice and produce biofuels technology.
  • $2 million in FY16 and $1.5 million in FY17 for forest management.
  • $200,000 in new money for the Forest Resources Council.
  • $500,000 in new money for DNR forestry activities.

“As an elected official representing the Northwoods of Minnesota, I’ve always been vocal about advocating for healthy, sustainable, multi-use forests. The funding levels this year will allow for proper management of Minnesota’s forests and the biofuels production incentive gives the forest products industry new opportunities in the 21st century by providing a strong foundation for future project development,” said Saxhaug.

The Legislature also passed a comprehensive Health and Human Services funding bill that invests $138 million in nursing homes which will make a big difference in communities across northern Minnesota. The bill also invests in more mental health services including $2 million for the Beltrami County Mental Health Hub. Currently if a person with mental illness needs assistance, police in Beltrami County are forced to drive 150 miles to the nearest crisis bed in North Dakota, taking the person away from their communities and stretching critical resources. The new mental health hub is a pilot project that aims to treat people with mental illness with wraparound services rather than throwing them in jail and perpetuating the cycle.

“We know that health and mental health care services can be challenging in our part of the state. The significant and long-overdue investment in nursing homes is a major step toward properly funding these important health-care sites. The money for the Beltrami County Mental Health Hub is likewise incredibly important for those suffering from mental health issues and their families. Having a safe and supportive place for care will help the entire community,” said Saxhaug.

Sen. Saxhaug can be reached at Sen.Tom.Saxhaug@senate.mn or by calling his office at (651) 296-4136.

Senator Tom Saxhaug
Tom Saxhaug represents District 5, which includes portions of Beltrami, Cass, Hubbard, and Itasca counties in the northern part of the state. He is a retired insurance agent. Sen. Saxhaug chairs the State Departments and Veterans Budget Division.

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