For more information contact: Erik Anderson 651-296-5318
I hope you had a pleasant Memorial Day weekend. It was important for me to relax and reflect on those who have given the ultimate sacrifice in their service to our country.
I want to share a few thoughts (okay, more than a few) about the legislative session that ended last week.
Minnesota Security Hospital
I’m excited that funding for additional staff at the Minnesota Security Hospital and bonding to rebuild the facility was passed on the final day of the special session which were top priorities for me for the last couple of years. It would not have happened if not for the persistent efforts by the people who work at MSH and the steadfast support of Governor Dayton.
Funding Other Projects for Our Region
I’m proud to have helped achieve $9.6 million in bonding for South Central College and funding for the Southern Minnesota Children’s Museum, the pavilion in Minnesota Square Park in St. Peter, and a major land purchase to expand Minneopa State Park.
An additional $5 million for agriculture was added at the insistence of Gov. Dayton over what was initially passed by the Legislature. This included funding to combat noxious weeds including Palmer Amaranth and for schools to install roll-bars on tractors used in their ag programs. I authored both initiatives and were included in the ag finance bill.
The final bill covers inflation for our schools and Minnesota keeps making progress towards voluntary pre-school for all four-year-olds. However, changes in teacher licensure raise real questions about assuring well-qualified professionals are teaching our children.
I voted for the tax bill which included the ag land property tax credit for construction of schools. I worked for more than two years to help farmers and our school districts in a bi-partisan effort for this common sense provision. The tax bill also includes a reduction in the tax paid on social security, tax credits to help pay for college and child care, and an increase in aid to cities and counties which will help keep our property taxes down. And, the Legislature gave the okay to the extension of local sales taxes in Mankato and North Mankato which were overwhelmingly approved by local voters in the last election.
With the good news comes some bad news…
Despite a $1.65 billion surplus the legislature failed to come close to meeting the need for additional funding for public higher education. Funding for MSU, Mankato is $5.2 million short and funding for SCC is $1.2 million short of their requests. I expect that it will result in increased tuition, potential class shortages and less support for students.
Another priority for me is new long-term sustainable transportation funding that would include a pathway for completion of four lanes on Highway 14 from Nicollet to New Ulm. I have long championed a compromise that would include new constitutionally dedicated revenue. The bill that passed the Legislature failed to do that. The transportation bill depends on borrowing without a reliable way to pay back the loans and has new language that will make Hwy 14 to New Ulm less competitive in securing Corridors of Commerce funds.
No Pay Raise for Group Home and Home Health Care Workers
It was fundamentally wrong for the majority in the Legislature not to provide a pay raise for our group home and home health care workers. These critically important helpers are severely underpaid and clearly deserve a raise. Further, it has become almost impossible to attract people to do this very valuable work. This is a crisis in a service that is absolutely needed by Minnesotans with disabilities.
Clean water and a healthy environment are important to all Minnesotans. Fewer opportunities for citizens to protect the environment and advantages given to big corporations in permitting took Minnesota a giant step backward.
Protecting Our Budget Reserves
There are real concerns with fiscal stability going forward. The long-term implications of the tax bill and the borrowing and expanded use of the general fund for roads put Minnesota at risk of depleting our reserves in the next biennium. I’ll be monitoring future budget forecasts very closely.
It’s a mixed bag and we ended a few days late. I’m proud of what I accomplished for District 19A and I’m determined to keep working to improve the lives of all Minnesotans.
Please don’t hesitate to contact me with your views about issues facing Minnesota. I try to honor all requests to meet with people in my district. That’s how I learn about you and find ways to better serve you as your state representative.
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