Legislative Update – April 13, 2018

House adopts budget resolution that includes $5 million for higher education

The House Ways and Means Committee approved budget targets yesterday for the 2018 session. Included in the budget resolution is $5 million for higher education, which is an increase in current spending. There were a handful of amendments offered in committee yesterday, but the resolution passed as is 18-6.

The House Higher Education and Career Readiness Policy and Finance Committee will now decide how the $5 million will be spent as they work in the coming weeks on their omnibus bill. The Senate has not yet announced their budget targets, so it’s not clear at this time what, if any additional spending, the Senate Higher Education Policy and Finance Committee will have to appropriate.

Chair of the Ways and Means Committee Rep. Jim Knoblach, R-St. Cloud, said lawmakers set a two-year budget last session, but he referenced issues that come up that need to be addressed. One of those issues is tax conformity. This is one of the bigger spending areas in the proposed budget. There is $107 million of the $329 million budget surplus dedicated toward “simplifying Minnesota’s tax code to fully benefit from recent federal tax reform and provide additional tax relief to the middle-class,” according to the press release shared yesterday.

As for bonding, House Republicans are looking at putting together an $825 million bonding bill. As a reminder, Governor Mark Dayton is proposing a $1.5 billion bonding bill.

Budget adjustments in the House include:

Taxes: $107,000,000
Simplifying state taxes and providing tax relief to hardworking Minnesotans

Transportation: $101,000,000
Fixing roads and bridges statewide

K-12 Education: $30,223,000
Putting student safety first through mental health programming and school safety improvements

Health and Human Services: $10,000,000
Preventing a 7 percent cut to those who care for Minnesota’s disabled community through the Disability Waiver Rate System (DWRS)

Jobs and Energy: $15,000,000
Increasing internet infrastructure in Greater Minnesota through the Border-to-Border Broadband Development Grant Program

Agriculture: $250,000
Supporting increased mental health counseling for farmers

Capital Investment $8,893,000
Enabling an $825 million General Obligation (GO) bonding package, including $25 million for school safety

Environment: $750,000
Tackling Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) which affects Minnesota’s deer, elk and moose populations.

Higher Education: $5,000,000

Public Safety: $7,119,000

State Government Finance: ($7,000,000)
Efficiencies to be determined by the committee

Other Bills: $50,600,000
Addressing issues like the opioid crisis and elder abuse

Almanac story highlights higher education

Almanac at the Capital highlighted higher education this week. The story features Saint Paul College students and President Rassoul Dastmozd. Office of Higher Education Commissioner Larry Pogemiller and House Higher Education and Career Readiness Policy and Finance Committee Chair Bud Nornes, R-Fergus Falls, are also interviewed. The story addresses higher education bonding needs with a focus on asset preservation and the need to take care of college and university buildings. Rochester Community and Technical College and Normandale Community College roofing needs are highlighted.

The story can be viewed at the below link:


Future of technical education discussed in House

The Higher Education and Career Readiness Policy and Finance Committee discussed HF 4234 on Wednesday, a bill that requires Minnesota State to prepare a plan to transfer control of technical education back to the K-12 school districts. Author of the bill, Rep. Gene Pelowski, DFL-Winona, said he introduced the bill to explore the option of giving every student the opportunity to graduate from high school with not just a diploma, but also with a skill set. When asked what his vision for technical education includes, Pelowski said he sees this as a way to share resources, not necessarily closing any schools, but he elaborated that technical skills sets are desperately needed.

Senior Vice Chancellor of Academic and Student Affairs Ron Anderson shared with committee members that Minnesota State welcomes a discussion about technical education, and said that any conversation should begin with what is best for students, business and industry in the local communities, and the people of Minnesota. Anderson said employers work closely with the colleges and have made clear that they need workers with the right skills to fill both their current and emerging needs. He said they have also made it clear that the acceleration of those skills have changed dramatically over the years. “Our job at Minnesota State is to be the education provider that addresses not only those initial skills, but also provides educational pathways to serve Minnesotan’s throughout their entire career journey,” Anderson said.

The bill passed and was referred to the Education Finance Committee.

Senate’s mental health initiatives include counseling for farm families

Senate Republicans and advocates from the medical field, law enforcement, and county governments held a press conference Wednesday in support of efforts to increase mental health treatment and services throughout the state.

Senator David Senjem, R-Rochester, promoted two capital improvement bills held over from last session that would address the continuum of care. One measure would use $50 million to build up to three behavior health centers for long-term treatment. The other measure seeks $30 million to build six crisis centers throughout the state to handle cases of acute mental illness. “Mental illness is a huge issue in our society today. We’re going to try to do something with it this session,” Senjem said.

Included in this mental health initiative are funds directed toward counseling for farm families. There is currently $113,000 available each year of the 2018-19 biennium for statewide mental health counseling support for farm families and business operators through Farm Business Management (FBM) programs at Minnesota State colleges. South Central College serves as the fiscal agent for the program, and currently, there is one provider of rural mental health counseling. Statewide Mental Health Outreach includes 880 total face-to-face counseling hours for 45 individuals and 22 farm couples and families in 26 counties; 75 hours of counseling for FBM instructors; 250 hours of telephone consultation; 15 hours of training for FBM instructors and others statewide, along with speaking about the Mental Health Outreach Program at conferences; and coordination with the Minnesota Department of Agriculture’s Focus on Ag Mental Health.

Through this mental health initiative, the Senate is recognizing the need to fund this important program. The House has also included $250,000 additional spending for agriculture in its recently released budget resolution to support increased mental health counseling for farmers.

Read more…


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