Legislators strike budget deal that boosts healthcare workers, shorts transportation

With less than a week to go before the May 19 constitutional deadline to adjourn, legislators have announced broad agreements on a $283 million budget bill for the year.

Under the terms of a budget agreement Monday evening, health and human services provisions will get the largest chunk of the surplus at $103 million. Much of that will be spent on a 5 percent rate increase for long-term care and disability care providers, costing about $83 million.

Education will get the next largest pot of the surplus, at $54 million in this budget cycle, with higher education getting $22 million. Public safety will see $35 million in new spending.

However, transportation funding to repair things like potholes will get just $15 million — much less than was originally proposed earlier in the session. Broadband infrastructure will also get a boost in a $20 million pot of jobs and economic development funding in the bill.  About $20 million of that total is wrapped up in spending on policy proposals like the Women’s Economic Security Act, which Dayton signed on Sunday, and sythetic drug legislation. 

“Minnesota is on sound financial footing for the first time in years, and this fiscally responsible budget package will keep us moving in the right direction,” said Senate Finance Committee Chairman Dick Cohen in a statement Monday night. “We have an opportunity to make smart investments in schools, roads, and economic development while at the same time keeping our budget in the black going into the next cycle.”

The Legislature already spent $20 million this year to provide propane assistance to the state during the bitterly cold winter. In the 2016-2017 budgeting cycle, the budget agreement will cost the state around $840 million.

Lawmakers are also poised to sign an agreement for a second round of tax cuts. Late last week legislators agreed to the parameters of a second $103 million tax cut bill, which follows $443 million in time-sensitive federal conformity and business-to-business tax cuts passed earlier this year. The second bill focuses on property tax relief, targeting homeowners, renters and homestead farmers with one-time relief checks this fall.

Dayton has said he could agree to the second tax cut bill and prefers a budget proposal that spends roughly $263 million of the remaining budget surplus. Lawmakers have been debating how to spend a $1.2 billion budget surplus all session.

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