Greetings from the district,
The 2021 legislative period is finally on the books! It’s great to be back home with Janel and the boys and to be back in the office at work after months of long days in St. Paul. Similar to 2020, it was another strange session. Legislators on both parties worked to complete our work while managing the changing circumstances of the pandemic. It has been challenging at times, but I am proud to say that we have worked well together at all levels to finalize a comprehensive, bipartisan state budget that will benefit the Minnesotans in many ways.
The biennial, bipartisan budget provides targeted investments in education, public safety, economic development and support for vulnerable Minnesotans. The budget deal also includes support for frontline workers, nearly $ 1 billion in tax breaks, and the lifting of Governor Walz’s emergency powers.
Finally, it includes key funding for rail infrastructure modernization and safety, the Lanesboro Dam, a new program to increase the number of technical and commercial teachers, and the expansion of the historic tax credit, all of which will be of local importance.
I would like to take a moment to provide details on some of the more notable provisions that are now in law.
Tax relief for Covid-19 aid: Legislature and the governor passed a tax bill that provides nearly $ 1 billion in tax relief for Minnesotan males, including full federal tax compliance for the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) Forgivable Loans and Emergency Unemployment Benefits that many companies and workers have used the Covid19 pandemic. Compliance with these federal regulations means Minnesotans will not have to pay additional taxes on the emergency relief many of them have relied on to keep people at work or to keep food on their family’s table.
Support for frontline workers: The Tax Act also set up a new working group on the Frontline Workers Grant Program to make recommendations on the payment of $ 250 million in direct cash to frontline workers. Federal government COVID aid money can be used to help those workers who were at risk during the pandemic because they continued to work. The task of the working group will be to define eligible employees and the associated benefits, which are then expected to be passed by the general legislature in September.
Historical tax credit: The tax bill contains laws I wrote to extend credit for the rehabilitation of historic structures. This is the hugely successful job creation tax credit that helps restore historic buildings. One study found that every dollar spent on tax credit generates $ 9.50 in private sector economic activity.
Public safety and natural disaster relief: The public safety budget provides significant support to first responders through salary increases for law enforcement officers and investments in training programs to help local Minnesotas. To help keep Minnesotans safe, there are expansions to the Violent Crime Enforcement Teams investigating serious crimes such as gangs and drug trafficking. The bill includes $ 30 million for the Emergency Disaster Relief Account, which is used to help communities across Minnesota recover from natural disasters such as tornadoes, storms, and floods.
Hometown Heroes Program: The Public Safety Budget is also creating a new Hometown Heroes program to provide funding, training and resources to firefighters. The bill would address the alarmingly high incidence of cancer, heart problems, and emotional trauma facing firefighters across the state. Minnesota currently has 22,000 firefighters who can benefit from this vital health aid.
The biggest increase in student funding in 15 years: I take pride in the consistent bipartisan support that lawmakers have given education, and this year was no exception. The education budget fully funds the schools with the biggest formula increase in 15 years, emphasizing student literacy, mental health and helping color teachers with no onerous mandates. Total government education aid will hit a record $ 20.98 billion over the next two school years – about 40 percent of the state’s general fund budget – and close to $ 22 billion in 2024-2025.
Termination of the emergency powers of Governor Walz: In the final days of the session, both the House and Senate unanimously voted to end Governor Tim Walz’s powers of emergency over Covid-19. Sixteen states had already taken this step, and several more have announced that they will do so in the coming weeks. The Minnesotans came together in amazing ways to weather the pandemic, but the time to end the governor’s emergency powers was long overdue. Legislators will continue to work with the governor to resolve urgent issues that may arise in relation to the pandemic.
Funding for the Preston Veterans Home: The state and veterans ‘budgets provide funding to build new veterans’ homes in Preston, Montevideo, Bemidji. In March, the federal government announced that it would finance the federal portion of these houses. These are urgent projects and by doing them now we can maximize the number of veterans we can support. I am grateful for the dedication of local Preston City, Fillmore County officials, veteran groups, and countless volunteers. This bipartisan effort is a wonderful way to honor our veterans and their families.
Improvements to the local rail infrastructure: This year’s transportation budget includes $ 10 million to fund the state’s share in a major overhaul of southeast Minnesota rail infrastructure, including communications and signaling, sidings, improvements to ground-level intersections, extensions to the siding, and remodeling and modification of new points and long-distance track. The improvements would enable significant improvements in freight transport and the development of additional rail passenger services between the Twin Cities, Milwaukee and Chicago.
Pilot training project: The jobs and economic growth budget was $ 400,000 for a pilot project for professional and technical faculty, including $ 250,000 for Winona State University and $ 150,000 for Minnesota State College Southeast. This project will enable these schools to develop a teacher prep program that will result in both a degree and a license to teach technical training courses so that we can get more industrial technology and applied arts teachers in the pipeline.
As always, I am at your disposal if you have any questions, ideas or concerns. Your feedback is very important to me and I encourage you to share your contribution. You can email me at [email protected] or call my Capitol office at 651-296-5649. It is a great honor to serve as your state senator.
If you are not already following me on Facebook, please give my page a ‘Like’. This is a great way to keep up with the latest from the Capitol Hill! Visit my page here: https://www.facebook.com/SenatorJeremyMiller/.
With best regards,