District 16 Sen. Gary Dahms of Redwood Falls and District 16B Rep. Paul Torkelson of Hanska sat in the Redwood Falls city council chambers Monday afternoon in front of a crowd of more than 30 people as part of a series of town hall meetings the two were hosting throughout the district. The intent of the town hall was to provide a venue for the public to learn a little more about the outcomes from the most recently concluded state legislative session.
Dahms said the session could be considered a success, because no one got everything they wanted but everyone got something.
“The session started out pretty fast,” Dahms said, adding things were moving along well into February.
That, he said, is when the funding source for the Lake Redwood reclamation project was changed, as the initial plan to use LCCMR money was challenged in court. The funding will be part of a bonding bill that also includes funding for the public facilities administration. Those dollars can be used by smaller communities to address infrastructure needs.
When May started legislators found themselves still ahead of schedule, added Dahms. With the May 20 deadline looming things began to slow down, as discussions between the governor and the leadership of the House and Senate on the budget went to the next level. Ultimately, a special session had to be called to finish up the work based on agreements made the final day.
“It was a very interesting session,” Dahms said, adding at the end there wasn’t anyone running up and down the halls saying how great the end result was.
Dahms said spending was curtailed, as approximately $750 less in spending compared to the two previous bienniums was approved.
Dahms said the county program aid was increased by $26 million for 2021 and $30 million for 2022.
An additional $100 million was added to the transportation budget, said Dahms.
An allocation of $90 million was approved to address rural housing needs statewide.
Torkelson said he has been deeply involved in the MNLARS issue. The changes which were approved will cost the state about another $90 million, said Torkelson, adding, he is hopeful after this issue on top of that which dealt with MnSURE will provide a lesson to the state that it should not write its own software.
“I want to congratulate the governor for meeting the issue head-on,” Torkelson said, adding other funding was also allocated for the deputy registrars who have been dealing with MNLARS issues.
“Now they are going to have to learn another whole new system,” said Torkelson.
Torkelson said the transportation bill work built on that which was done during the previous session, and for him the good news that came out of the session was that the 20 cent gas tax increase that was proposed did not pass.
Torkelson added he anticipates addressing transportation funding with bonding dollars will be another big topic during the 2020 legislative session.
Torkelson said there were a number of tax and fee increases that were proposed by the governor which did not pass, adding if the proposals were added up the increase would have been $12 billion.
“That’s good news for the taxpayers of the State of Minnesota,” said Torkelson.