By the early hours of June 13, Minnesota’s House and Senate passed the budget bills responsible for education, jobs and energy, and environment and agriculture in a special session. This prevented a shutdown of those portions of state government when the state’s next two-year budget cycle begins on July 1. Legislators also passed a bonding bill authorizing infrastructure projects around the state and a Legacy bill allocating dedicated funds for the arts and environment.
The education bill spells out $526 million in new general fund resources for FY 2016-17, including $346 million to increase funding for school districts on the general education formula by 2 percent in both FY 2016 and FY 2017. Though the education bill does not include the statewide universal pre-kindergarten initiative that was a priority for Governor Mark Dayton, it does devote $96 million to increase funding for initiatives focused on young children, including:
- $48 million for early learning scholarships;
- $3.5 million for the state’s early learning and child care rating system;
- $31 million for School Readiness;
- $2.8 million for Early Childhood Family Education; and
- $10 million for Head Start.
The bill also includes $5 million for the Northside Achievement Zone, St. Paul Promise Neighborhood and new education partnership pilots that help children succeed by coordinating support for families at school and in their communities.
Along with the increased funding for Basic Sliding Fee Child Assistance in the health and human services budget, these important investments mean that more Minnesota children will thrive in stable, nurturing care, and fewer parents will need to pass up on jobs or opportunities to go back to school because they can’t afford child care.
The jobs and energy omnibus budget bill increases general fund spending by $33 million. The final version includes an additional $2.5 million to support employment for persons with disabilities or mental illness, and $2.5 million for housing for people with serious mental illnesses.
Combined, the omnibus bills for environment and agriculture result in a $26 million decrease in general fund spending. That includes a $64 million cut from the environmental portion and a $39 million increase in agricultural spending.
Along with the bills already passed and signed by Dayton, these budget bills will leave $865 million unallocated from the state’s projected FY 2016-17 surplus.