St. Cloud Area State Lawmakers React to End of 2015 Session
ST. PAUL - St. Cloud area lawmakers react to the just-ended 2015 State Legislative Session:
On the Education Funding:
State lawmakers are waiting to see if Governor Mark Dayton follows through with his threat to veto the education funding bill.
State Representative Tim O'Driscoll says it's a good bill that provides a 1.5 percent funding increase in the first year, and a two-percent funding increase in the second year. That's more than the one-percent bump the Governor was asking for in each of the two years. However, the bill doesn't include funding for universal Pre-K. O'Driscoll says school districts have told him they don't have room for the four-year olds.
O'Driscoll also says the Governor hasn't explained what he wants for all-day Pre-K, as far as a curriculum is concerned.
But, despite this issue, O'Driscoll described the session as the most bi-partisan one that he's been a part of in the five years he's been at the State Capitol.
On the Health Care Funding Bill:
Workers at area nursing homes may be getting a pay raise, thanks to the State Legislature. The health care bill includes a boost in funding for nursing homes under a reworked funding formula.
State Representative Tama Theis says they got the entire funding increase that they were requesting.
The overall health care bill also maintains the state's health care program called MinnesotaCare, and it also leaves the controversial MNsure program largely untouched.
On The Transportation Funding Bill:
A major increase in transportation funding will not happen this year, despite most state lawmakers saying it was one of their top priorities. Senator John Pederson of St. Cloud the extra $30 million added to the transportation budget is basically a "lights on - plus" bill.
Governor Mark Dayton and Senate Democrats wanted a gas tax increase, while Republicans wanted to use existing taxes to fund transportation. The compromise was to do neither.
Pederson says it's possible a transportation bill could be brought up again next session.
On The Land and Legacy Amendment Bill:
The Minnesota State Legislature adjourned last (Monday) without passing a Land and Legacy funding bill. Senator John Pederson says by the time the bill passed off the House floor, it was too late for the Senate to vote on it.
He says local projects that are counting on that money may now have to delay their plans.
Pederson says, if there's a special session, the Senate could pass it then. Or, they'll have to wait until the session next year.
Back in 2008, voters passed a three-eighths of one-percent tax for 25-years with the money going towards the arts and outdoors projects.