The MN Legislative Session ended last night around Midnight, below is brief recap of what happened on key issues for 49ers.
The constitutional amendment for long term dedicated transportation infrastructure funding fell short. It passed the House with a strong majority, including 2 democrats, but fell short in the Senate. This didn’t get done in the Senate because we had a couple of Republican holdouts, and the DFL Senators would not offer any support.
We fought hard, you all did a great job raising your voices, and we almost got this done. We must never stop fighting for infrastructure funding. Our state needs to build, and the jobs created are too important for families like yours.
All was not lost. Because of the pressure you put on the Legislature to do something – they ended up passing a massive $1.5 billion bonding bill with close to $500 million in additional funding for road and bridge construction. This was a major victory, more on that below. In addition, the auto part sales tax is going to continue to go to the highway trust account for now because of what we did last year, and there was also hundreds of millions in cash and bonding for transportation last year too.
We will continue to try to find a long term solution, but because of your work last year and this year, the next few years should be very good for infrastructure jobs.
Good news and bad news here. They passed a second tax bill after the Governor vetoed the first one, and all deductions at the state level were kept in place, including for unreimbursed travel expenses and union dues. However, the Governor has indicated publicly that he is going to veto the bill. He has 14 days to decide, hopefully he changes his mind.
Wind reporting language
We came to an agreement with the wind and solar industry on some reporting language late in session. However there were some objections by a couple utilities, and we just couldn’t get this done this year. In fairness, it took longer than we thought to reach an agreement, so we didn’t have time to go through the normal process. We are set up to get this done next year, and the relationships that we are forming with wind and solar developers, utilities, and contractors will be valuable as we move forward.
The bonding bill was a major victory this year. It started at $825 million total with most of that for roads and bridges. We ended up with $825 million for traditional building and maintenance projects, close to $500 million for roads and bridges, and an additional $120 million to build waste water treatment facilities. This combined with last year’s $1 billion bonding bill is a major step forward for infrastructure projects in MN. This will help most everyone in our union, the public sector cities and counties will see more money flowing down for projects and maintenance, The new waste water treatment facilities will be great for construction and members that operate those facilities, the builders side will see more projects, the highway/heavy will see a lot more projects and the equipment dealers should see increased business.
This is the most bonding money in a two year period in Minnesota history, by a wide margin. We didn’t get long term funding done, but because of the pressure we put on the Legislature, we have secured a lot of work for the next few years. There should be no reason the Governor won’t sign this bill, he hasn’t commented on it yet, but indications are good.
Other jobs bills
The Essentia Hospital expansion and local sales tax for roads in Duluth did not get done. This was a disappointment, the result of horse trading at the end and it just didn’t happen.
The 2nd wild rice bill passed both the House and Senate again, but we are hearing the Governor is going to veto it again. This bill would have prevented the state from implementing a sulfate standard that has no scientific basis and would cripple the mines up north and small towns with outdated waste water facilities. We hope the Governor changes his mind, this was a fair compromise, and he should sign the bill.
The Governor vetoed the Line 3 bill that would have permitted the project outside of the PUC process. This bill was more of a statement than an actual proposal, and the Governor told them all session he would veto it so no surprise there. Line 3 will be decided by the PUC in June.
The public sector Pension bill passed both the House and Senate and is on its way to the Governor and he will sign it. This bill will solidify PERA, and also has an important fix for the St. Paul city 49ers pension.
Overall, this session was pretty tough. The Governor seems poised to veto most of the bills. But the bonding bill and pension bill are two major victories and a step forward. Stay tuned to see what the Governor does in the coming days.
Improvements to the Workers Compensation Program
The Workers Compensation bill which passed unanimously in both the House and the Senate and is now law – signed by Governor Dayton yesterday.