For more information contact: Matt Roznowski 651-296-8875
As we enter the final weeks of the 2013 legislative session, I want to give you a quick update about the House of Representatives’ recently finalized budget.
Last week, we passed the remaining components of a series of comprehensive finance bills that fund priorities like our children’s education, property tax reductions for middle class families, and initiatives that create good jobs to give all Minnesotans greater economic security.
Here’s a look at some of the House budget’s major components.
The House budget makes historic investments in education at every level while keeping our promise to voters to pay back the remaining $854 million school shift, which resulted from a GOP-controlled legislature’s decision to enact record borrowing from our schools in 2011.
We aim to build the world’s best workforce by fully funding all-day Kindergarten, providing early learning scholarships, and increasing funding for K-12 schools by $315 million over the next biennium.
Here’s a breakdown of how those funding increases impact our local public schools:
By providing free all-day Kindergarten, our budget offers financial relief to families who participate in the fee-based all-day Kindergarten programs currently available in many school districts. For school districts such as North St. Paul-Maplewood-Oakdale that already offer free all-day Kindergarten, the dollars currently funding that program could be freed up and used for other priorities.
This component of our budget improves student achievement and also means that parents currently covering the costs of all-day Kindergarten for their children will have a lot more money in their pockets. It’s going to allow them to spend more money at local businesses on things like groceries and save more every month to send their kids to college. That’s going to make a big difference for lots of families throughout Minnesota.
Lastly, the House budget freezes tuition for students at Minnesota’s public colleges and universities after a decade of skyrocketing tuition rates. I’m glad we’re taking serious steps to address this problem. Saddling our students with record amounts of debt after they graduate is not a recipe for economic growth. It makes it much harder for them to save money to buy a car or a house. Those kinds of purchases help our economy grow and lead to greater stability. Freezing tuition is going to make a big difference for our young people at places like Century College and it’s an important step towards a stronger, healthier economy.
The House budget invests in proven strategies to create good jobs, such as the Minnesota Investment Fund (MIF), which provides incentives such as low-interest loans to out-of-state businesses thinking of setting up shop in Minnesota as well as in-state businesses thinking of expanding. According to the Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED), MIF leverages up to $33 in private investment for every $1 awarded.
Our budget also provides the largest small business tax cut in Minnesota history. It cuts $346 million in taxes for small businesses by reducing the rate employers pay to fund the unemployment insurance trust fund.
Lastly, we invest more money in the Minnesota Trade Office so our businesses can forge relationships overseas and compete in an increasingly global economy.
Over the past decade, property taxes increased by 86 percent due to cuts to Local Government Aid. The burden fell on middle class families, which meant less money in people’s pockets to save for retirement, send their kids to college, or buy groceries and other goods from local businesses.
The House budget fixes that problem by providing direct property tax relief through restoring the Homestead Credit Refund and a retooled renters’ credit. 380,000 homeowners and renters will see their refunds increase and 200,000 additional homeowners will receive a refund thanks to this plan. Ramsey County homeowners will see their refunds increase by an average of $228.
In addition, the House budget provides significant Local Government Aid (LGA) and County Program Aid (CPA) reform to ensure our cities and towns can continue providing high-quality services like police officers and firefighters that Minnesotans depend on every day. The city of Maplewood will receive over $1.1 million in LGA over the next two years and White Bear Lake will receive over $3 million. Ramsey County is set to receive nearly $2.4 million in additional CPA in 2014.
Increasing LGA also removes the need for local levies and increases, which is another way our budget reduces the tax burden on middle class families and small businesses.
Environment, Natural Resources and Agriculture:
The House budget includes an amendment I authored that gives the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) the tools needed to get better control of water being pumped from aquifers, which is an all too familiar problem for White Bear Lake residents.
Right now, the DNR commissioner can designate groundwater management areas and limit total annual water appropriations and uses within a designated area to ensure sustainable use of groundwater that protects ecosystems, water quality, and the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. However, the commissioner is only able to place conservation measures on large water users.
Under my amendment, the DNR commissioner can require permits for all water users, both big and small, within designated groundwater management areas, including those using less than 10,000 per day, or 1,000,000 gallons per year and water supplies serving less than 25 persons for domestic purposes.
This policy establishes a system that’s fair for all water users. It puts everyone on the same footing whether you’re a big or small user of water. If we don’t start taking these steps now, this will become a much more unmanageable situation over the next decade. Frankly, it’s a problem that’s been on the backburner for far too long.
The House budget also provides the DNR with more resources to establish better water monitoring capabilities. It will help provide the data needed to find a solution to address shrinking water supplies. In order to pay for the additional resources, the omnibus bill includes a modest fee increase on heavy users of water. If cities pass the costs on to residential users, an individual water bill would go up about $1-$2 in the first year.
Right now, there’s a lack of data on water levels across Minnesota, but our budget gives us the tools we need to gather that data so we can find a solution.
As a proud graduate of Century College, which at the time was known as Lakewood Community College, I was honored when my alma mater recently selected me at as their 2013 Outstanding Alum. Century College helped shape my attitudes about public service and standing up for those who don't have a voice. You can click here to read the announcement in Century College’s monthly bulletin.
Next Steps for Budget:
Now that the House passed major finance bills that make up our budget, it will go to conference committee. Differences between the House and Senate versions will be ironed out before a final package heads to Governor Dayton’s desk.
If you have any questions about the budget process of the components of the House budget, please contact me by phone at (651) 296-5363, by email at email@example.com, or by postal mail at 487 State Office Building, 100 Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd., St. Paul, MN 55155.
I also encourage you to 'like' my Facebook page to get the latest news and updates from the capitol.
State Representative, District 43A