Gov. Mark Dayton on Friday gave final approval to four budget bills, leaving just three to be decided by the weekend.
Dayton signed budget bills for health and human services, higher education, transportation and public safety and judiciary. Still pending for his approval or rejection are budget measures for state government operations, agriculture and environment and a jobs bill that was rammed through in the Legislature's last hour.
The DFL governor on Thursday vetoed the education budget bill, setting up a forthcoming special session in June.
Of the four signed Friday, the health and human services budget is the largest and it represents the second most expensive part of the state government. The Legislature passed a two-year budget of $12 billion, which includes $138 million, part of which will go to nursing home workers, a priority of House Republicans.
Democrats fought an attempt by Republicans to eliminate MinnesotaCare, a public health insurance program for the working poor, although legislators agreed to allocate $500,000 for a task force to study changes to the program before its funding source sunsets in a few years.
The public safety and judiciary bill included an additional $111 million in spending for courts and public safety, and a measure legalizing firearm suppressors — more commonly known as “silencers."
The public safety deal includes pay raises for judges, more staffing for the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension, and funding to combat sex trafficking and prevent recruitment of Minnesotans to terror organizations like ISIL and Al-Shabab.
A push to restore voting rights to felons after they are released from incarceration did not make it in the final bill. The House and Senate toughened drunken driving laws. They compromised on Automatic License Plate Readers (ALPR), allowing law enforcement to store data gleaned from the devices for 60 days.
The higher education budget includes $166 million in new spending, with $53 million for the University of Minnesota. Of that, $30 million will go toward the U's Medical School. The Minnesota State Colleges and Universities System received $100 million in the budget the Legislature approved.
The bare-bones transportation measure was a "lights-on" bill. Legislators said they plan to pick up debate on a more robust budget next year.
Staff writer J. Patrick Coolican contributed to this report.