To the wire: Legislature grants funding

Amy Olson

House and Senate leaders in the state Legislature reached an agreement late Monday night outlining a plan which would provide $377 million over the next three years in funding for medical education, including the Academic Health Center.
The endowment is part of the $5.4 billion health and human services bill. Gov. Jesse Ventura is expected to sign the bill into law later this week.
Sen. Don Samuelson, DFL-Brainerd, said tobacco prevention and health education and research were “funded handsomely.”
Over the next 25 years, the state will divvy up 5 percent of the interest from the endowments to fund health-related initiatives, including medical education and tobacco prevention programs.
The legacy of the health and human services bill is the endowments and the tobacco prevention legislation, said Rep. Matt Entenza, DFL-St. Paul.
Other items in the bill include $99 million for pay increases for workers in nursing homes and programs for the disabled, $21 million to fund the state’s prescription drug program for senior citizens who cannot afford medication, and $6.4 million to create space in group homes for 100 more disabled Minnesotans.

In other news:
ù The Capitol improvements bill, which includes $60 million for light rail and $400 million in cash for future bonds, passed both chambers Monday night, but not without some trouble. The House vote sat open for more than an hour- and-a-half before it could garner enough votes to pass. Legislators did not have much of a choice once debate got down to the last few hours; any legislation that did not pass would die until next January.
ù The omnibus tax bill was finalized late Sunday evening and passed by both the House and the Senate just minutes before the midnight deadline after several hours of debate.
The intricate bill includes a $1.6 billion income tax cut for all income brackets, although middle-class residents will receive a 0.25 percent larger cut; $1.25 billion sales tax rebate, which is expected to be sent out in August or September; a provision abolishing income tax marriage penalties; and a provision to keep health care provider tax at 1.5 percent, canceling a 0.5 percent increase that was scheduled for January.
ù The K-12 education finance bill was finalized Monday afternoon. The bill, which narrowly passed the Senate, gives school districts more flexibility when cutting class sizes and offsetting rising special education costs.
The $7.9 billion spending bill makes up one-third of the Legislature’s entire spending for the next biennium, but makes no mention of the controversial Profile of Learning education requirements.
— The Associated Press contributed to this report.