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Minn. House passes E-12 budget; Senate expected to pass health and human services

Gov. Tim Walz also signed five budget bills into law. All 13 budget bills are due by June 30 in order to avoid state services and agency shutdowns.

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The facade of the Minnesota State Capitol Building in St. Paul. Photo illustration, Shutterstock, Inc.
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ST. PAUL -- Days before their Wednesday, June 30, deadline, Minnesota lawmakers are working through the weekend to push its 13 budgets to the finish line, avoiding any state agency or services shutdowns.

Saturday, June 26 was marked with hours of floor debate in the House, some legislative maneuvering in the Senate and five budgets being signed into law by Gov. Tim Walz. Here’s the rundown of what happened in St. Paul.

Walz signs five budgets

Five of the 13 budget bills are complete, thanks to Gov. Tim Walz’s signature: legacy, higher education, agriculture, transportation and commerce and energy.

In a Saturday written statement, Walz said the five bills “will not only help Minnesota recover from the COVID-19 pandemic, but will bring us back better than ever.”

He also pressured the Legislature to wrap things up, with the June 30 deadline now just days away: “Minnesota is ready to put this pandemic behind us. It’s time for the Legislature to finish the job,” he said.

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On Friday, Walz reiterated that the public safety bill is still seeing the most disagreement between the Democratic-majority House and Republican-majority Senate. Though it’s down to the wire, most of the remaining bills seem to be moving at a steady pace through floor debates and votes.

E-12 Education

The House spent hours Saturday debating a mammoth portion of the state’s total budget: E-12 public education. The House ultimately passed the historically robust budget by a 105-20 vote, and it can now head to the Senate for its approval before reaching Walz’s desk for his signature.

The plan includes a 2.45% funding increase from current levels in its first year, and a subsequent 2% increase over that amount in its second year. That equates to Minnesota’s greatest funding boost to public education in 15 years, amounting to a roughly $1 billion increase over the next four years.

School choice waivers, a policy priority of legislative Republicans, did not make it into the bill’s final version. The omnibus does include measures to recruit more teachers of color and improve students’ literacy rates, as well as preserve 4,000 pre-K slots for young Minnesotans.

Rep. Ruth Richardson, D-Mendota Heights, is the House’s education policy chair. In a written statement after the vote, she noted that Minnesota is home to some of the country’s worst racial disparities in education. She said the budget passed Saturday hopes to address those gaps -- especially after the tumultuous coronavirus pandemic upended public education and disproportionately impacted Minnesotans of color.

“Over the past year and a half, our students have had to improvise and adjust to a global pandemic,” she said. “The leadership Minnesota teachers have shown by overcoming adversity and reaching across a computer screen to ensure learning for our children deserves more than just recognition, it deserves funding.”

Health and Human Services

Another behemoth budget in need of approval is the state’s health and human services bill, set for debate on the Senate floor Saturday evening. After its approval in the Senate, it can move on to the House before getting signed into law.

Employment and Economic Development

Lawmakers’ previously agreed-upon employment and economic development budget is going back to the drawing board. House Democrats and Senate Republicans are sparring over a Democrat-supported provision to bolster training and safety requirements for oil refinery workers.

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On Saturday, the Senate voted 37-29 not to concur with the House’s latest version of the budget, which includes the refinery language, so the omnibus now heads back into a conference committee.

Mearhoff is a Minnesota Capitol Correspondent for Forum News Service. You can reach her at smearhoff@forumcomm.com or 651-290-0707.
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