Capitol Update: April 24, 2018

4-24-2018
AFSCME members on the front steps of the Minnesota State Capitol.
AFSCME members on the front steps of the Minnesota State Capitol.
Successful Member Lobby Days and Day on the Hill

Thanks to AFSCME members who are investing their time and effort to talk to legislators and provide a green presence every day, including signing up for policy committees, joining Corrections Lobbying Day or attending Day on the Hill. It’s making a difference.

Legislative Budget Decisions

There are four weeks left in the session, and House budget targets are in. The House would cut state government agencies by $7 million and give $107 million more in tax cuts to corporations and the wealthy. The House proposes just $825 million in bonding, compared to Gov. Dayton’s proposal for $1.5 billion.

Taxes

We continue to support the Governor’s tax plan that includes targeted relief for working Minnesotans, increases the Working Family Tax Credit and conforms to changes in federal tax law, which would bring in more state tax revenue from the foreign profits of Minnesota companies. We testified against the proposed 1 percent corporate tax cut, a proposed 1 percent across-the-board cut to income tax rates and more.

Health and Human Services Direct Care and Treatment

Last year, we won a funding increase for additional direct care and treatment staffing, but more than $16 million went unspent because DHS couldn’t hire enough people to fill the positions. Rather than lose the money, DHS plans to spend it on transitioning to electronic health records and to cover IT-related safety upgrades in state hospitals like cameras and electronic doors.

Higher Ed

A proposal led by Rep. Pelowski would shift technical college programs and services back into the K-12 education system. This proposal would likely reduce the number of MnState employees and dramatically change our higher education system. Local 4001’s Mary Falk testified against this House bill, which does not have a Senate companion bill at the moment.

The new budget target proposes a $5 million increase to higher education.

Data Practices

A bill that would make security camera and audio recordings public (including voicemails, emails, etc.) has been tabled after our stakeholder meeting about two weeks ago.

Transportation

The new budget target provides for a total of $101 million in road and bridge funding.

We oppose a constitutional amendment that would permanently shift money from the General Fund for transportation, rather than coming up with a plan for new revenue for long-term funding for roads, bridges and transit. AFSCME supports a long-term, dedicated funding source for transportation like a modest increase in the gas tax that will pay for much-needed improvements without hurting other areas of the budget.

Pensions

The Legislative Pension Commission adopted the Omnibus Pension bill by a 14-0 vote. The Senate followed quickly moving the bill through committees and passing the bill 66-0.  The House has yet to schedule a committee hearing.

Child Protection

Two of our finance-related ideas are still in play. One is to eliminate a financial penalty of up to 20 percent of the total child protection grant funding when counties do not meet timeline requirements. The other is to fund the Child Welfare Training Academy.