Nelson legislative update: local infrastructure and nursing home funding
Friends and neighbors,
Two weeks after Minnesota’s Birthday, we wrapped up the 93rd Legislature which lays out the budget framework of tax and spending in the next two fiscal years, 2024 and 2025. The next Fiscal Year (FY) begins on July 1, 2024.
Over the next few weeks I will provide in-depth updates on the bills that were passed this Session, the good and the troubling in each. While I had hoped we would deliver meaningful tax relief in the face of a $19 Billion surplus, the Majority had other plans.
While many of my legislative initiatives like significant tax relief did not pass, several of my bills and initiatives were enacted: Critical funding for nursing homes, Live Well at Home Grants to help Minnesotans stay in their homes longer and a historic infrastructure package for Dodge and Olmsted Counties. Read on for more details.
Please don’t hesitate to contact me for help with any state issue or legislative initiative: firstname.lastname@example.org or at 651–296–4848.
I authored and championed funding for a number of critical infrastructure projects in Dodge and Olmsted Counties, including funding to begin the process of constructing a new interchange at the partially closed Highway 14/44; Kasson Flood Mitigation; Rochester International Airport Bond Extension; Dodge County Transfer Station; Olmsted County Material Recovery Facility; Willow Creek Trail Extension; Rochester Community and Technical College Career Tech design dollars; Rochester Park and Ride Design; Graham Park Redevelopment; Forestry Operations Center, Wasioja Civil War Era Seminary Stabilization; and SPARK Children’s Museum. These improvements are crucial for the safety and well-being of our residents in Olmsted County. By investing in our infrastructure, we are ensuring a more connected and prosperous community for years to come.
HIGHWAY 14/44 INTERCHANGE
This bill provides $5 million to construct a new Highway 14/44 interchange. This interchange is known as one of the most dangerous intersections in southeast Minnesota. Currently, the intersection is at a skewed angle and sees 30,000 vehicles per day traveling at a high rate of speed, with morning commute conditions known to be especially risky. Earlier this year, MnDOT closed down the turn lanes at the intersection because it became so dangerous.
KASSON FLOOD MITIGATION
This bill provides $5 million for the replacement and renovation of sanitary sewer and stormwater infrastructure and systems, a water main, and roadway restoration. The project calls for the construction of a stormwater impoundment upstream of Highway 14 to prevent flooding during large rain events and lower the 100-year flood elevation by approximately 2 feet throughout the city; replace City infrastructure in the hardest hit portions of the City; improve resistance to flooding; and reduce sanitary sewer backups in homes.
Flooding near and above the 100-year flood elevation has occurred in Kasson four times in the last 15 years — 2007, 2010, and twice in 2019. These events caused significant damage to city infrastructure and private property and have caused major economic impacts.
RST International Airport bond extension
The bill authorizes the bond sale extension to 2028 for Rochester International Airport (RST) runway and improvements. RST handles the second-largest volume of passengers in Minnesota and is served by the three legacy air carriers, but existing runway pavements were nearing the end of their useful lives and require reconstruction to allow for continued access to the Rochester community and world-class health care by air. (This is an extension of the $11.5M bonds my legislation secured in 2020.)
DODGE COUNTY SOLID WASTE TRANSFER STATION
The bill provides $2.1 million for Dodge County to construct a new solid waste transfer station. Currently, licensed haulers bring municipal solid waste (MSW) and recycling to a building that is at its limit and is unable to handle an expansion. In 2021, Dodge County took in roughly 10,000 tons of MSW and 2,000 tons of single-stream recycling, with numbers increasing about 6% annually.
OLMSTED COUNTY MATERIALS RECOVERY FACILITY
The bill authorizes $10 million for Olmsted County to construct a Materials Recovery Facility (MRF) adjoining the Olmsted County Waste-to-Energy Facility (OWEF). The MRF would remove recoverable and noncombustible materials from the waste stream, and sell to a secondary market and allow the region to reuse waste as a resource for a safe, healthy, and sustainable community. It would improve efficiency, and delay the need for the OWEF to be expanded. Currently, there are no materials recovery facilities operating in southeastern Minnesota.
WILLOW CREEK TRAIL
The bill provides $1.875 million for the Willow Creek Trail. The project, which has been in the works since the late 1990s, would create a crossing under Highway 52 to connect the path and trail network in Willow Creek to the larger city network of more than 100 miles of trails.
ROCHESTER COMMUNITY AND TECHNICAL COLLEGE
$1.347 for Rochester Community and Technical College to design a renovation of the Heintz Career and Technical Education Center with places for students to study and collaborate. The project will improve ventilation, exhaust, sound control, and working clearances that prioritize student and faculty health and wellness, including a roof replacement, HVAC improvements, and central chiller plant upgrades.
ROCHESTER PARK AND RIDE
This bill will provide $800,000 to the city of Rochester to design an expansion of the community’s park-and-ride assets with the construction of a 200-stall parking deck on municipal property along Broadway Avenue N (formerly US HWY 63 that was turned back to the city). This critical funding will help to provide greater opportunities for workers and visitors to travel to downtown Rochester by bus, eliminating vehicle miles traveled. The project also aligns with the City’s adopted goal to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 30% by 2025 and an 80% reduction by 2050. The proposed transit parking deck will make bus use a more attractive transportation option.
OLMSTED COUNTY — GRAHAM PARK
This will provide $8 million for the Graham Park redevelopment in Olmsted County. Graham Park has been an asset for agriculture, community events, entertainment and youth athletics in southeast Minnesota for more than 100 years. This funding will allow for the construction of an exhibition center and a farmers market pavilion to continue serving ag and community needs year-round. This project will allow Graham Park facilities to be used 200 more days a year and is expected to be an economic benefit of as much as $13.7 million every year.
REGIONAL PARKS FORESTRY OPERATIONS CENTER
The bill provides $14 million to the city of Rochester for a Regional Parks Forestry Operations Center. This project would provide updated, accessible, centralized space for parks and forestry services that serve the regional parks system. The current facility has only one egress to access maintenance vehicles and that one egress is shared with the baseball field and visitor parking! Limited options currently exist for injury-prevention exercises and there is only one locker room, which is also located as the main thoroughfare into the garage bays.
WASIOJA CIVIL SEMINARY
This bill provides $2.1 million for the Wasioja Civil War era Seminary Stabilization. These ruins are part of a historic district and one of the only locations with a direct connection to Minnesota’s involvement in the Civil War. These buildings serve as a reminder of the sacrifices made by Minnesota’s pioneers and the losses our communities, our state, and our country incurred.
SPARK CHILDREN’S MUSEUM
The bill provides $200,000 for the SPARK Children’s Museum in Rochester to increase access and engagement for diverse audiences through museum programs and exhibits that promote Minnesota arts, culture, and history.
SPARK’s mission is to enrich the lives of young learners by creating shared, interactive experiences that engage people of all ages. The program offers 756 programs surrounding health and wellness, physical development, and literacy and drama, as well as culture, community, science, and art. The museum has experienced 87% admission growth and 1600% growth in free and reduced admission between 2021 and 2022.
Nursing Home Funding
Nursing homes and long-term care facilities are facing a dire crisis, and have been for years. Last year, my Senate colleagues and I supported $1 billion to support nursing homes, but unfortunately we could not get agreement from the House and Gov. Walz.
This year we tried again but were met with resistance until the very end. I am happy to report that the Democrat Majorities in both Senate and House finally agreed to critical funding to keep nursing homes afloat. We still have more to do, but this is an amazing start.
Nursing Facility Grants totaling $173.5 million will be split into two payments in August 2023 and August 2024. Each nursing home will receive at least $225,000, plus additional funds based on active beds for every nursing home in the state; an average 50-bed facility could see $465,000 in grant funding. The grants can be used for various fiscal management strategies to improve the financial health of nursing homes. Unlike loans in the Human Service budget, these grants will not need to be repaid, making their impact much more meaningful for nursing homes.