The Minnesota Senate on a strong vote (61-to-5) has passed a major health and human services funding bill that would use a billion dollars of the budget surplus to increase state reimbursements for long term care, personal care and disability services.  Republican Senator Jim Abeler from Anoka says that industry is  “besieged by lack of staff and faces a dire emergency situation”, and rate increases will result in higher wages and better benefits for staff:

“I think we’re moving the needle.”

Abeler says Governor Walz’s budget number is quite a bit smaller — however:

“His comments at the State of the State (address on Sunday) are sounding like he wants to actually get after this.  He really needs to.”

The bill would also establish a new state Department of Behavioral Health.