What is in Minnesota’s $46 billion budget?

Published 1:29 pm Sunday, June 11, 2017

ST. PAUL — In the drama surrounding Gov. Mark Dayton’s veto of the funding for the House and Senate — cue the lawsuit, any day now — it’s easy to forget that lawmakers did, in fact, finish a new state budget this year.

So what’s in that $46 billion document? Well, new tax breaks for first-time home buyers and college students; higher fees for campers, hunters and anglers; and more money to expand preschool options.

Let’s have a look at some of the money and policy decisions, big and small:

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From preschool to college

— School districts get a 2 percent funding bump in each of the next two years for their general per-pupil formula.

— Dayton got $50 million to expand his flagship preschool program into more areas of the state, though districts could choose to put that money toward more general school readiness programs

— The Legislature cut some funding for school districts to cover the costs of college entrance exams, meaning higher costs for students and their parents to take the ACT.

— Lawmakers quietly axed a policy requiring schools to get rid of the newest teachers first during layoffs, a flashpoint between Democrats and Republicans for years.

— College hopefuls will get a tax break when socking away money for school. And graduates with loan debt can get up to $500 from a new tax credit.

Roads and bridges

— A combination of shifting general funds, tapping surplus dollars and borrowing combine to put more than $600 million a year into transportation repairs. The plan does not include a gas tax hike.

— In a subtle win for Republicans who pushed against a gas tax increase, gas pumps will be required to display current state and federal taxes (28.5 cents per gallon to the state with another 18.4 cents to the federal government for unleaded; diesel drivers pay the same state tax but send the federal government 24.4 cents per gallon).

— Drivers of electric cars will pay more. Hybrids get a pass, but pure-electric automobiles will see a new $75 surcharge annually.

— A controversial light-rail train between Minneapolis and southwestern suburbs can proceed, but the Legislature explicitly banned using any state money once it’s up and running.

Cops and courts

— Minnesota judges will get a 2.5 percent raise in both 2017 and 2018, shy of the 3.5 percent raises Supreme Court Justice Lorie Gildea said were needed.

— A $250,000 grant will help law enforcement agencies combat terrorism groups recruiting Minnesotans, a major concern in some immigrant communities.

— After several high-profile shooting deaths of black men by officers, police organizations will get extra training funding to address crisis intervention, dealing with mental illness, boosting diversity in their ranks and recognizing implicit bias.

The great outdoors

— Farmers get some breathing room to implement 50-foot buffers between their crops and public waters. The water quality initiative launches in November, but a new grace period gives them eight months to escape punishment.

— Riders of snowmobiles and ATVs will pay slightly more to register their toys.

— Licenses for anglers, deer hunters and visitors to state parks will go up slightly, most by $2 or $3 each.

—Hunters have more options. The state added blaze pink as an acceptable clothing option while hunting deer, and barred state regulators from restricting the use of lead shot.

Tax breaks

— Residents searching for their first home will get extra help saving for a down payment with a tax deduction for a new, dedicated home savings account.

— Minnesota seniors get a tax break because less of their Social Security income will be taxed.

— A planned Major League Soccer stadium finally gets help, as the state exempted the St. Paul facility from property taxes or sales tax on its construction materials.

— Taxes for premium cigars will drop from $3.50 each to just 50 cents, and the state has removed automatic, inflation-driven increases on cigarette taxes to freeze it in place at about $3.04 per pack.

Odds and ends

— After a two-year pause, Minnesota’s novel campaign finance system that allows residents to contribute to parties or politicians and get their $50 refunded through tax returns will return.

— Another round of expanding broadband internet infrastructure into rural Minnesota is in line with another $20 million infusion.

— Super Bowl visitors can spend an extra two hours drinking in 2018 thanks to an extension allowing bars to stay open until 4 a.m. that weekend.