The 2013 Legislative Session was the most productive session in recent memory and one of the most productive in Minnesota History. Many of the new laws and reforms took effect on July 1st. Here is a summary of changes you can expect to see.
The education budget bill, which I chief authored, boosts spending on early education and K-12 by $485 million. $134 million is dedicated to providing optional all-day kindergarten to every school district in the state. Additionally, the compulsory age for school attendance is increased from 16 to 17, which was my initiative. New testing will take effect for students that better focuses on helping students, not just telling them if they passed or failed. There is increased funding for special education and adult education, and the basic funding formula for students is boosted by 1.5% each of the next two years.
Jobs and Economic Development
We invested millions of dollars in job creation for middle class Minnesotans. Among the programs receiving additional funding are the Minnesota Investment Fund, which received an extra $30 million. The Department of Employment and Economic Development received $24 million in new money.
For the first time in Minnesota history we implemented a solar energy production standard. By 2020, Minnesota’s largest utilities need to meet a goal of 1.5% of their energy from solar production. In addition there is a non-mandatory goal of 10% by 2030.
Environment, Natural Resources and Agriculture
As the threat of invasive aquatic species becomes more serious, the legislature spent $16 million to fight the spread of the harmful creatures. Additionally there are appropriations for $702 million for environment and natural resources programs and $81 million for agricultural programs. $20 million will go toward the Agricultural Growth, Research and Innovation program to develop new markets for Minnesota farmers and $2 million to county fairs for better arts access and education to preserve and promote Minnesota’s history and cultural heritage.
Health and Human Services
We saved an estimated $150 million by implementing the federal Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act and by reforming the payment method for health maintenance organization and hospital surcharges. We use those savings to provide nursing homes with a five percent funding increase. The Department of Health will hire a new director of child sex trafficking prevention.
We invested $250 million into our post-secondary education system. The money went to freeze tuition at the University of Minnesota and MnSCU system and provide additional state aid.
In order to eliminate the $627 million deficit, reduce property taxes by $400 million and invest in education, we needed to raise revenue. Many of the new revenue streams take effect this month, with the most significant being the increase on the wealthiest two percent of Minnesotans and the cigarette tax increase.
Local Government Aid
We adjusted the formula for Local Government Aid (LGA), giving cities and counties additional support, which in turn will limit their reliance on property taxes. LGA is increased by $80 million and County Program Aid jumped $40 million.
While a more sustainable solution for our infrastructure and transportation funding is needed, we made steps in helping maintain our current roads and bridges. State road construction funding was increased by nearly $360 million over the biennium and the legislature established a Corridors of Commerce program to improve trunk highways of commercial importance.
Additionally, instead of just the seven-county metro area, all counties will now have the option of implementing a $5 wheelage tax.
These are a few highlights of what laws took effect this month. August will bring about additional laws, and more will continue to take effect throughout the year. In 2013 we put Minnesota on a stable financial path, but our work isn’t done. We need to continue to create jobs and grow the middle class.
As always, please contact me with any questions, concerns, thoughts or ideas you have. My email address is email@example.com and my phone number is 651-296-6820. It is never too early to start thinking about what we can do together in 2014.