Session results in bipartisan accomplishments

Published 5:12 pm Saturday, May 23, 2015

I’ve always been a big believer in putting people before politics. As someone who has worked as an elementary teacher for the past 30 years, I was new to politics, and as a newcomer to the Legislature was hopeful that after years of divide-and-conquer politics at the Capitol we could bring a new spirit of shared government to St. Paul.

Peggy Bennett

Peggy Bennett

This year with a DFL Senate and GOP House, we were able to put many of our differences aside to pass a truly great bipartisan budget that will have a positive impact on the lives of Minnesotans in every corner of the state. We compromised the way Minnesotans expected us to, rather than digging in our heels and playing political games.

The result is a budget that will truly help to create a better Minnesota.

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We put into place once-in-a-generation reforms to the way we pay for our senior care facilities that will result in significant funding increases for our nursing homes. St. John’s Lutheran Home and Good Samaritan Society here in Albert Lea will see 30 percent funding increases totaling more than $4 million for 2016 alone. Thorne Crest in Albert Lea will see a 21 percent increase. Field Crest Care Center in Hayfield will see a 29 percent increase. Parkview Care Center in Wells will see a 14.5 percent increase. Blooming Prairie’s Prairie Manor Care Center will see a 16 percent increase.

With increasing numbers of aging adults needing nursing home care, these reforms will make sure these facilities will be able to keep their doors open, and improve quality of care. Too many nursing homes in parts of Greater Minnesota have had to close their doors over the past several years. Closed nursing homes means loved ones may be forced to live far away from their families.

We made a commitment to Minnesota’s aging adults this session that nursing home reforms would be a top priority. The bipartisan budget agreement delivered on this commitment, and I’m overjoyed we could get this done for our elders.

For the first time small cities with populations under 5,000 will receive new funding to help fix local roads. We also doubled the amount of funding for rail safety upgrades as part of our transportation bill. While the Legislature was unable to reach agreement on a comprehensive transportation plan this year, we remain committed to coming back next session to enact a 10-year plan that fixes our roads and bridges.

Legislators also came together to support broadband, workforce housing and workforce development training programs that will help thousands of Minnesotans secure better-paying jobs to support their families.

Our bipartisan education bill includes more than $400 million in new money for our schools. Seventy percentof the new money will go directly to the classroom in the form of new per-pupil funding, an average of more than $200 per student statewide. The bill also makes historic investments in early learning programs that are proven to be helpful in addressing the achievement gap.

I’m disappointed that the governor has threatened vetoes on some of these bills. Just when Minnesotans were finally breathing a sigh of relief that Democrats and Republicans were getting along, compromising and passing a budget agreement, it appears as if the governor is moving us towards a special session with his budget bill vetoes.

I hope we can resolve our differences quickly and make sure Minnesotans aren’t hurt by these political games. The Legislature did our part to put people before politics, I hope we can reach an agreement and ensure that the governor does the same.


Peggy Bennett is the House representative for District 27A.