Another session in the books

With the completion of a one-day special session on May 25, the Minnesota Legislature has adjourned. Gov. Tim Walz deserves high praise for uniting the Republican Senate and the DFL House of Representatives on a budget for the next two years. Many of the largest and most consequential bills passed with unanimous support in the senate, including the Health and Human Services budget. In our era of high partisanship, this is an inspiring and hopeful event.

In the HHS budget, we agreed to continue a provider tax at a slightly lower rate going forward. This tax generates close to a billion dollars a year dedicated to the health care of millions of poor, elderly, disabled and working poor Minnesotans. Without it, we would be a less dignified and compassionate state.

We also passed legislation to regulate Pharmacy Benefit Managers. These corporate middlemen work to set drug prices and drug formularies across the state, but their work has been marked by secrecy and kickbacks. I served on the final conference committee that reached bipartisan agreement to pass this bill, which will shine a light on the flow of money in PBMs. This will improve health care for Minnesotans while reining in health care costs. And we passed an Opioid Stewardship bill, which will assess a fee on drug manufacturers, with funds directed to recovery and treatment programs. Limitations on prescribing in the bill will decrease the flow of opioids into Minnesota, and innovations in electronic prescription monitoring will give doctors more power to prescribe responsibly. 

We also passed protections for our vulnerable seniors who reside in nursing homes and assisted living facilities. This long overdue legislation will help families rest assured that their loved ones are cared for professionally and respectfully. In an effort to slow the rising cost of health care, we created a Blue Ribbon Panel charged with cutting $100 million in unnecessary spending from the HHS budget in the next two years.

In the education budget, we increased funding over the next two years to our schools, and made progress in fulfilling our obligations to support special education. And we passed a tax cut for the middle class.

A number of local projects were funded in the final tax bill. The West St. Paul local option sales tax, passed by voters last November, was approved by the Legislature. School referendum equalization to support districts with lower property values passed, which will benefit the South St Paul School District. A sales tax exemption on construction materials for new fire stations in Inver Grove Heights and Mendota Heights was approved.

There is much that we could still do. The governor’s proposal for a gas tax to create dedicated and sustained funding for roads and transit did not pass, nor did his proposal to move to 100% renewable energy by 2050. My proposal to tax vaping products in an effort to decrease youth vaping did not make it through. Legislation to make sure people who can’t afford their insulin can receive an emergency supply failed in the final hours. I continue to support an affordable public option for health insurance to compete with the private insurance industry. I will work on these ideas in future sessions.

It’s a tremendous honor to serve this community. Many of you share your ideas with me by phone, visit or email; and even when we disagree, I’m grateful for the passion and advocacy. You can contact me at any time at sen.matt.klein@senate.mn, or call 651-296-4370 to set up a visit. 

 

—Matt Klein represents District 52, which includes West St. Paul, South St. Paul, Mendota Heights, Mendota, Sunfish Lake and Inver Grove Heights.

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