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Minn. lawmakers approve $11.3 billion health and human services budget

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The Minnesota House Democrats OK'd an $11.3 billion health and human services spending bill in a 73-61 party-line vote, and on Saturday afternoon, the bill passed the Senate 39-28.

The massive bill covers the cost of public health insurance plans, social welfare programs and long-term care for elderly and disabled students over the next two years, the Pioneer Press reports.

Minnesota lawmakers are are working late into the night and through the weekend to approve the state's $38 billion budget by Monday's midnight deadline. The HHS bill is a big slice of that budget.

The proposed legislation, which was negotiated between the two chambers and Gov. Mark Dayton, gives 90 percent of the funds to seniors who are in nursing homes or elderly and disabled residents trying to live outside health care facilities, according to the the Star Tribune.

At the start of the debate, bill author Tony Lourey, DFL-Kerrick, said the bill was better than a proposal passed earlier in the year, according to Politics in Minnesota. Both chambers originally faced a $150 million targeted budget cut in health and human services, but that number was scaled back to $50 million when leadership reached final budget targets with Gov. Mark Dayton.

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The bill also includes a 5 percent pay raise for nursing home caregivers, the first increase in four years. A smaller, 1 percent hike for personal care attendants.

Politics in Minnesota noted that $7.4 million was carved out to pay for mental health services in schools across the state.

The compromise legislation reduces the spending on the HHS budget by $50 million compared to a projected demand for the services, a cut Republicans have repeatedly criticized.

The Star Tribune reports Republicans blasted scaling back the budget for the sick and elderly in a year when the Democratic majority was pushing tax increases and new revenue sources that would raise $2 billion.

The bill now goes to Dayton's desk, awaiting his John Hancock.

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