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Dear Friends and Neighbors,
Here is an update with the latest news from the Capitol.
HIGHLIGHTS IN THIS UPDATE:
Budget Bills and Negotiations
In an effort to get our work done for the people and priorities of Minnesota, the Legislature began advancing budget omnibus bills that were negotiated and agreed upon in conference committees this week. We believe that these balanced budget bills work for our state, investing in our shared priorities and providing more than $1 billion in meaningful tax relief for families, local businesses, college graduates and senior citizens.
Our hope is that Governor Dayton acts favorably on the legislation we are advancing, but if not, we will continue to negotiate in good faith, hoping the Governor will work with us to set joint budget targets and find agreements on a variety of omnibus bills.
We are approaching the end of session, and I will be advocating for a bipartisan compromise on the budget and resolving our differences in an open and transparent manner. I will keep you updated.
Compromise Education Bill Moves Forward
On Tuesday, the House passed education legislation that was agreed upon in conference committee. As Chair of the Education Finance Committee, I have worked diligently over the past five months to craft education legislation that puts Minnesota kids first. This legislation includes $1.14 billion in new education funding over the current biennium, $378 million in investments for proven, targeted early learning programs, and an increase to the per pupil funding formula of 1.5 percent each year which equates to $182 more for every student. What’s more, the legislation also helps keep the best teachers in the classroom, creates a new academic achievement initiative to help low-income students succeed in school, and stands up for the health and well-being of kids.
You can read more about our legislation in a Pioneer Press editorial I wrote that was published on Thursday. You can also check out this video on the top five reasons why Governor Dayton should act favorably on the education budget bill.
Transportation Omnibus Bill
Also this week, the House re-approved transportation legislation after coming to an agreement with the Senate in conference committee. Our plan invests $5.5 billion over the next decade for our state’s transportation needs. It also includes a substantial $2 billion investment in roads and bridges over the next biennium, in part by using transportation-related tax revenues the state already collects.
I know many have an interest in how the transportation plan may affect the proposed Southwest Light Rail Line (SWLRT). The Omnibus Transportation Conference Committee agreement includes a provision that no state funding for the operating losses of any new light rail lines (including SWLRT and the Bottineau line) will be paid by the state without legislative approval. Current lines such as Hiawatha and the Central Corridor will continue to be grandfathered in under current state policy in which 50% of the operating losses are paid from the State General Fund.
Furthermore, you may have seen in the news this week that there is a tentative deal to dissolve the County Transit Improvement Board (CTIB). This move was initiated by Dakota County who formally notified CTIB of its intent to withdraw from the joint powers agreement. With CTIB dissolved, Hennepin County would be called upon to contribute a higher portion of the funding to build SWLRT—around $103 million more. The Star Tribune talks more about CTIB, Hennepin County and SWLRT here.
Around the Capitol
It was great to have third graders from Eden Lake Elementary at the Capitol last week. I hope they enjoyed their field trip learning more about state government!
With Maggie, a third grader from Eden Prairie at the Capitol
With constituents from Hammer - a resource organization for individuals with developmental disabilities. Thank you for stopping by!
Happy Mother’s Day!
I just wanted to take a moment to wish all of the wonderful mothers, grandmothers and women who have helped shape our lives a Happy Mother’s Day! I hope you enjoy the weekend and are able to spend time with loved ones celebrating all the great moms out there.
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