The Minnesota Legislature wrapped up a whirlwind special session Saturday with a number of major budget bills Gov. Tim Walz is expected to approve as soon as this week. Like every session, things didn't quite go the way lawmakers wanted.
Democrats are happy to see more spending on education and a continuing health care provider tax but disappointed in the lack of progress on transportation and infrastructure. Republicans are glad to have curbed tax increases on a variety of items, including a proposed 20-cent-per-gallon gas tax increase, but disappointed in increased government spending in several areas.
It remains to be seen how south-central Minnesota fares after the latest round of legislative action. Here's what we know for certain:
Minnesotans will get state tax breaks ranging from 2.3 percent for families of four who make $250,000 or more a year to 6.9 percent on the state median household annual income of $68,000, as well as the median family income of $86,000.
Under a tax deal that conforms Minnesota's tax code with federal changes made in 2017, a family of four will pay no state income taxes on the first $32,900.
The deal means Minnesotans won't have as much difficulty filing taxes in 2020 as they did this year.
After years of discussions, local government aid and county program aid will be back to where they were at their highest point in 2002.
A state government bill included $30 million in LGA and CPA funding respectively, something local governments have clamored for since state aid went down in 2003. The funding programs help offset tax collection differences for cities and counties with smaller populations than major communities.
A massive package of bills aimed at curbing, treating and preventing opioid addiction in Minnesota passed thanks to the efforts of local Republican Sens. Julie Rosen, Vernon Center, and Rich Draheim, Madison Lake, among other lawmakers.
Rosen was key in negotiating how the bill would be funded, as Democrats and Republicans disagreed over how much and for how long pharmaceutical companies and distributors needed to pay. The bill includes $21 million in annual funding, which will stop when the state collects $250 million in court settlements after at least five years.
Up to 85 jobs in St. Peter could have been at risk if lawmakers didn't pass $16 million in funding for the Minnesota Sex Offender Program's transition initiatives. House Democrats included the money in a health and human services proposal, but Senate Republicans didn't when they unveiled their own plan.
The measure made it into the final HHS bill lawmakers approved during the weekend.
Also included in the HHS bill were increases in several low-income assistance programs and raises for some unionized home health aides.
Rep. Jack Considine, DFL-Mankato, has championed across-the-board wage increases for caregivers who work with the elderly and disabled since 2016. Considine said over the weekend it's unclear if those raises will affect caregivers in Greater Minnesota, who are largely non-union workers.
The biggest local victory came earlier this month when area lawmakers successfully pushed through a bill that allows emergency personnel to legally administer complex medicine to patients with rare diseases.
A Courtland family has pushed for the bill since 2016. Deann and Curtis Johnson wanted emergency personnel to be able to help their daughter, Bailey, in case she ever had a medical emergency in public.
Emergency personnel usually work under a physician or administrator's medical license, and legal liability issues normally would prevent them from administering the kind of medicine Bailey needs.
The bill does away with the state's current legal liability policy. Instead, medical boards will recommend new regulations and procedures by the next legislative session.
Despite ongoing concerns on how best to fund more road and bridge projects around the state, lawmakers walked away from this legislative session with about the same amount of money going toward roads.
Walz and Republican leaders couldn't come together on the aforementioned gas tax. As a result, a DFL proposal to put motor vehicle repair sales taxes and other similar funding back in the state's general fund went nowhere (Republicans dedicated that money toward transportation in 2017).
Despite at least some agreement that Minnesota needs to spend more money on infrastructure, a proposed public works bill went nowhere this session.
Walz and House Democrats wanted to borrow $1.3 billion and $1.5 billion respectively in bonds to largely maintain current state assets. A majority of Senate GOPers believed the state didn't need to spend money on a large so-called bonding bill this session, as larger bonding bills are traditionally done in even-numbered years.
The governor did sign a $100 million bonding bill brought by lawmakers early in the session, largely to offset concern over the 2018 bonding bill that allocated $98 million from an environmental fund toward water-related projects.
Though the Senate's bonding committee didn't meet during this year's regular session, the budget agreement Walz came to with House and Senate leaders included a $500 bonding bill. Lawmakers ultimately couldn't agree on projects during the special session and the bonding bill was abandoned.
That bill could have included more transportation projects, wastewater treatment projects and even local issues such as a $7 million request from the city of Mankato to improve the Minnesota River's water quality, $900,000 for Waldorf's wastewater treatment plant and $18.6 million to renovate several MSOP buildings in St. Peter.
A Free Press analysis published earlier this month found Minnesota needs to spend more than $70 billion over the next 20 years to keep up with a majority of the state's public infrastructure recommendations.
According to state and federal estimates, lawmakers would have needed to approve a $4.1 billion bonding bill this year to keep pace with local and state roads and bridges, water and sewer systems, wastewater treatment plants and state-owned facilities, among other issues.