By Sen. Karla Bigham, Minnesota Senate District 54

The finish line is in sight for the 2019 legislative session, with under four weeks to go before adjournment. We are now passing budget bills off the floor in the Senate. Soon, we will be in negotiations with the House and Gov. Tim Walz to find compromise to pass a final budget that reflects the values we all share that funds the priorities of Minnesota.

These days at the Capitol are full of healthy floor debate on how we can make sure our budget funds these priorities. These days can also begin to stretch late in the night, but the conversation we are having is well worth it. My colleagues and I have been working all session, hearing testimony on bills and hearing from constituents directly about the direction our state should go.

It's unfortunate that the Senate majority has refused to listen. The budget that they are proposing would deeply cut programs and services that Minnesotans depend on. In areas where it does invest new money, it fails to invest enough to adequately address these challenges.

They cut funding for services that would help our most vulnerable in the Health and Human Services budget, deep cuts to our regulatory agencies and their ability to keep Minnesota's water and air clean, too little support for our college students, and minimal new funding for our schools - including no action in addressing the special education cross subsidy.

I'm also deeply disappointed in the lack of support for new funding in our Judiciary bill, especially for increasing the staffing levels at our corrections facilities. The Department of Corrections asked for an additional 187 officers in 2017, and only received 15. This year, the DOC is requesting funding to hire 120 new officers, and yet this bill provides little support for this great need. This must be addressed to keep our officers safe.

I continue to fight for the priorities that we share, including addressing the major transportation needs for our community. I want to thank the City of Hastings for their preparedness and being ready to advocate for the Highway 316 and Highway 61 project to my colleagues at the Legislature. As they say, "teamwork makes the dream work." There are both bonding and general fund legislative proposals making their way through the legislative process that would fund these projects. These are vital for our area, and I will push to see them included in our final budget.

Over the next few weeks, it is up to legislators and the governor to find compromise. None of us will get everything we want, but we have a responsibility to the citizens of our community to come together and put our shared values as Minnesotans over party politics.

Though things are busy, I always make time for constituents. I want to hear from you! I encourage constituents to visit at the Capitol. Call 651-297-8060 to make an appointment or to share your thoughts and concerns. You can also email me at sen.karla.bigham@senate.mn, and please sign up for my email updates.