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At the Capitol: Legislature Prepares for February Forecast Release

The Minnesota Office of Management and Budget will release the February Forecast, a major indicator of the financial health of the state, this Friday afternoon. Lawmakers and policy experts anticipate an improved economic situation from the December Forecast and are beginning to have conversations on how it will influence the two-year budget-making process already well underway. Here is what you need to know about what’s happening at the Capitol:

This Week
The Senate had another committee hearing Tuesday on S.F. 496, a bill that extends the waiver on background study requirements issued at the outset of the pandemic. This week, S.F. 496 went before the committee on Civil Law and Data Practices for review and LeadingAge Minnesota submitted written testimony in support of the proposal. Members were generally supportive and it was tabled for eventual consideration in the final Senate budget.  We will continue to monitor and advocate for this bill as it will help senior care providers maintain their workforce and prevent the loss of employees due to delays in study reviews.

On Monday, the House had a hearing in the Ways and Means committee on H.F. 88/S.F. 93 that gives the commissioner of the Department of Veterans Affairs the authority to establish a veterans adult day program. Specifically, this bill grants authority to the commissioner to work with local, state, and federal entities to facilitate an adult day program and to collect fees from participants as well as accept federal program funding. Following a short debate about the cost of the program and the recommendation that it be set-up in a manner that doesn’t require participants to pay any fees, it passed out of the committee and now heads to the House floor for final debate. We hope to see the eventual passage of the bill to bring support to this group of vulnerable older adults. 

Last Week
The Senate had further committee hearings last week on the statewide COVID-19 vaccine rollout. The Senate Committee on Aging and Long-Term Care Policy hosted a question and answer session with the Minnesota Department of Health about the state’s vaccine program. The members of the committee continued to apply pressure to the Department of Health testifiers on the distribution of the vaccine to seniors and requested that older adults above 65 years-old be vaccinated before any other Minnesotans. Additionally, the Senate Committee on Health and Human Services Finance and Policy took the time to listen to officials from West Virginia about their vaccine rollout program. Committee members discussed what vaccine program strategies worked for the state and what lessons could be applied to Minnesota’s rollout. Overall, the Senate continued to urge the administration to vaccinate Minnesota’s seniors and older adults as quickly as possible and we expect these hearings to continue to support that priority in the coming weeks ahead.

What to Watch
This Friday, the Minnesota Office of Management and Budget will release the February Forecast. This annual economic report is the indicator that most influences the budget-making process as it gives lawmakers an up-to-date snapshot of Minnesota’s financial status. Policy experts anticipate an improved financial situation from the December Forecast given that data shows Minnesota experienced an increase in revenue of 3.5% or $459 million, a sign that people are spending instead of cautiously saving money. Broadly, a positive forecast would make Governor Walz’s proposed tax increases difficult to pass, as the Republican-controlled Senate already indicated earlier this session that there was no appetite for tax increases despite the previously reported budget deficit. We will be closely watching for updates and plan on issuing an analysis next week once the forecast is officially released.

What’s Ahead
Have you registered for LeadingAge Minnesota’s annual Week at the Capitol? Join us virtually the week of March 15 for opportunities to connect with your peers, listen to and engage with experts from the field, and champion older adults as well as their caregivers in meetings with lawmakers. Click here to register and see a detailed agenda for this year’s largest advocacy event. Registration closes on March 6 so make sure to reserve your spot today! If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to reach out to Matt Steele, Director of Government Affairs, at msteele@leadingagemn.org.

Each week during the legislative session, follow Advantage for regular updates about what’s happening at the Capitol.

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