Legislative Update: February 21, 2020

Minnesota State discusses bonding at Capitol

Yesterday, Minnesota State Chancellor Devinder Malhotra and Associate Vice Chancellor for Facilities Brian Yolitz were before the House Capital Investment division to discuss the system’s $271.2 million capital budget request, with an emphasis on the asset preservation (HEAPR) process.

Chancellor Malhotra reminded committee members the reason for Minnesota State’s bonding request is to better serve the 350,000 students the colleges and universities educate. He explained that the infrastructure projects will benefit teaching and learning for decades to come.

Malhotra shared that so many of the system’s buildings are 50 years old or more, so it is critical that the system maintains them in order to keep students, faculty and staff safe, warm and dry. Rep. Jack Considine, DFL-Mankato, provided an example of HEAPR dollars at work, and thanked Chancellor Malhotra for fixing the rain coming in the roof of the library at Minnesota State University, Mankato. Chancellor Malhotra responded that the students, faculty and staff at the university are also very thankful.

Associate Vice Chancellor Yolitz explained to members that the colleges and universities have received HEAPR funding in several of the past bonding bills, however, it has not kept up with the system’s needs nor aging facilities.

“As a result, we estimate there is now approximately $1 billion worth of facilities components like roofs and exteriors, boilers and HVAC systems, and utility systems that are obsolete, having exceeded their useful lives, and are now in backlog status,” Yolitz said. He continued, “Looking in the future, over the next ten years, we expect another $1.3 billion worth of facility components and systems to reach the end of their useful lives. Together they represent a $2.3 billion ten-year asset preservation need for Minnesota State academic facilities.”

The House Capital Investment division traveled throughout the state this past fall visiting the bonding requests currently before them for consideration, including many of the colleges and universities’ projects. Once the committee wraps up their hearings, the next step is to put forward a bill with the projects they are recommending to fund. The Senate Capital Investment committee has not yet met, however, they have toured the state reviewing bonding projects. As a reminder, Governor Walz is recommending $488 million for higher education, which includes $263.7 million for Minnesota State.

Monday is Minnesota State Day at the Capitol

Minnesota State Day at the Capitol is this Monday, February 24. The event will be an open house format from 2:15-4:30 p.m. in the State Capitol rotunda. Minnesota State colleges and universities will highlight eight academic programs through interactive demonstrations. There will also be student success stories representing each of the 37 colleges and universities. In addition, the system’s capital budget request will be highlighted. This will be an opportunity for legislators to learn more about the great work happening at Minnesota State campuses.

Below are the programs being highlighted at the interactive tables.

  • Anoka Technical College: Emergency Medical Services
  • Bemidji State University: Communication Studies, The Virtual Reality Environment (VRE) and Communication Apprehension
  • Bemidji State University: Center for Sustainability Studies-Undergraduate Research at the Pinewood Oil Spill Site
  • Central Lakes College: Heavy Equipment Operation & Maintenance Program
  • Normandale Community College: Vacuum and Thin Film Technology Department
  • Minnesota West Community and Technical College: Teacher Pathway Partnership
  • St. Cloud Technical and Community College: Land Surveying/Civil Engineering (LSCE) technology, Virtual Sandbox
  • Metropolitan State University: Cyber Security

Senate Republicans announce tax package

Senate Republicans announced a package of proposed tax cuts yesterday worth more than $1 billion that they say would benefit everyone in the state. The plan would use the projected $1.3 billion budget surplus to pay for the cuts initially, but would create ongoing financial obligations.

The plan would reduce the state’s lowest income tax rate, paid by all taxpayers, from 5.35 percent to 4.9 percent. The change would benefit people at all income levels at an estimated annual cost of about $440 million, Tax Committee Chair Sen. Roger Chamberlain, R-Lino Lakes, said.

The proposal also includes the elimination of the tax on Social Security Income, which would cost $430 million. The package also includes expanded education tax credits and help for farmers purchasing equipment.

Sen. Ann Rest, DFL-New Hope, the lead DFLer on the Tax committee, said any tax proposals should wait until the release of the February economic forecast on Feb. 27, which will provide the most recent budget projections for the state.

The plan will likely not get a lot of attention in the House, where there is a DFL majority. Governor Tim Walz has said he opposes the Social Security proposal and other costly tax cuts.

Committee schedules can be found HERE

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