In the final hours of Minnesota’s 2013 legislative session, Rep. John Ward, DFL-Baxter, chief-authored a compromise $176 million bonding bill. The bill included $20 million for flood mitigation, $109 million for Capitol restoration, $19 million for the Minneapolis Veterans Home, and $8 million in matching clean water grants. The bill passed with broad bipartisan support 122-10.
“Our beautiful state Capitol, the People’s House, is crumbling and needs repair,” Ward said in a news release. Our vets in Minneapolis deserve this funding to improve their Veterans Home, and the flood mitigation and clean water grants are very worthy causes that will benefit the entire state.”
Ward and Rep. Joe Radinovich, DFL-Crosby, issued a news release in which they said the Legislature made great progress for Minnesota this year.
“For the past decade Minnesota’s budget deficits have been balanced with an all cuts-and-gimmicks approach that have increased class sizes, squeezed middle class families, and only left us with more budget deficits,” Ward said. “This year was different.”
“We worked together with Gov. Dayton to build a budget plan so that we can honestly balance our budget deficit without gimmicks and invest in a stronger middle class,” Rep. Radinovich said. “Our budget keeps our promises we made and invests in priorities that Minnesotans broadly share and support: education, job creation and middle class property tax relief.”
Among the goals they said the Legislature accomplished this year were: balancing the budget deficit without gimmicks; accelerating payback to schools; investing in education; creating jobs; and fairer taxes for middle class Minnesotans.
“Minnesota is on the edge of an economic turnaround and our budget will spur progress by finally resolving our deficit, investing in job-creating priorities, a better education system, and a stronger middle class,” Ward said.
Ward and Radinovich supported the Omnibus Higher Education Finance Bill and Omnibus Health and Human Services Finance Bill in the final days of the Legislature.
The higher education bill includes $250 million in funding that will benefit students by freezing tuition at both the University of Minnesota (U of M) and the Minnesota State Colleges and University system (MnSCU), including Central Lakes College. It also contains $74.5 million in additional funding for the State Grant Program.
The bill also includes reforms to expand the oversight function of the legislature. They are designed to better hold the U of M and MnSCU accountable for budgeting practices that have come under fire for high administrative costs and excessive compensation for top administrators, the legislators said.
The Omnibus Health and Human Services Bill makes $50 million in reductions to the health and human services budget while protecting core services to the vulnerable and increasing funding for nursing homes by 5 percent. It also increases the rate for long-term care providers by 1 percent while also repealing a 1.67 percent cut scheduled to take effect in July.
In addition, the budget includes $1.6 million for Minnesota Teen Challenge, a program that helps Minnesota teens battling chemical dependency and has a facility in Brainerd. After the funding was not included in the initial House bill, Reps. Ward and Radinovich signed onto a bipartisan letter advocating for funding. Rep. Ward also met with Governor Dayton to push for its inclusion in the final bill.
The House failed to pass a Capital Investment Bill — also known as bonding. The bill needed a super majority of 81 votes, requiring bipartisan support. Only three Republicans voted in favor of the bill.
The failed bill contained a number of important Senate District 10 projects including:
• $2 million for Central Lakes College to replace the roof on the Library/Fine Arts building and replace air handlers, HVAC distribution and controls for the business and industry area
• $2.7 million for the Cuyuna Lakes Trail from Crosby to Deerwood, Paul Bunyan State Trail to Lum Park, a segment connecting to the Sagamore Unit of the Cuyuna County State Recreational Area; and Paul Bunyan State Trail to Riverton
• $450,000 in Accessibility for Public Building Grants — potential funding for an elevator in the Brainerd Civic Center to make it fully handicapped accessible.
• $5 million for the Brainerd Lakes Regional Airport to construct an extension of water and sanitary sewer service and to replace one mile of the existing sewer line.
• $25 million for wastewater infrastructure projects throughout the state, potentially including $480,000 to rehabilitate an existing facility in the North Long Lake Sewer District and $845,000 to rehabilitate a Cuyuna collection system.