For more information contact: Andrew Wagner 651-296-2809
This week the legislature approved a bill to provide disaster relief funding to 47 counties, including here in Dakota County, for costs incurred after severe flooding last summer. The bill was necessary in order to receive federal disaster funding from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), and we were able to primarily use unspent money from previous disaster relief bills, saving taxpayers millions overall.
This was another great example of the legislature coming together in a bipartisan fashion to support disaster relief funding.
Update on the Minnesota Zoo
The Minnesota Zoo has a budget shortfall this year due to rising food prices for animals, lower-than-expected attendance during the cold spring last year, and higher staff costs. The Zoo has traditionally been a good steward of taxpayer dollars and has scaled back the amount of state funding they rely upon over the past several years. Unfortunately, this perfect storm of factors has resulted in a small operating deficit that will require additional funding, budget cuts, or a combination of both to continue Zoo operations.
Legislators are currently in the process of examining the Zoo's budget, and asking tough questions to make sure we don't find ourselves in this situation down the road. I'm optimistic that the legislature will be able to come to an agreement on funding to help ensure that the Zoo is financially stable going forward. Fox 9 News did a story explaining the Zoo's current budget situation.
You can watch the Fox 9 story which includes a brief interview from me by clicking here.
Governor Dayton unveiled his budget proposal this week. His proposal would spend more than $42 billion dollars, the largest budget in state history. The proposal includes $6.8 billion dollars in increased all-funds spending over the current biennium, and a $900 million dollar tax increase. The all-funds budget is a combination of the general fund budget as well as about 35 other dedicated funds or accounts not included in the general fund.
In total, the budget would spend an additional $1,200 for every man, woman, and child in the state of Minnesota. I'm concerned about the long-term sustainability of Minnesota's budget if we continue increasing spending this drastically.
Over the coming weeks and months the House and Senate will release their budget proposals, and will work on finding common ground to find an agreement that can pass the DFL Senate, the GOP House, and be signed by Governor Dayton.
School Choice Week
It was School Choice Week this week, a time to bring attention to policy proposals to give families and students more options in education. Students deserve a good education, and a good school regardless of where they live in Minnesota. Parents should have a great array of options; whether it be charter schools, private school, home-schooling, or a public school.
Empowering parents with options for their students is one way I believe we can work to close the achievement gap. When parents are involved and are given the tools to put their child in the best school possible, children are much more likely to succeed.
This week I was once again appointed by Speaker Kurt Daudt to serve on the Commission on National and Community Service, which encourages participation and volunteer work here in Minnesota and across the country. The organization in Minnesota is called ServeMinnesota, and helps put on numerous programs, such as the successful Reading Corps and Math Corps programs, and has volunteer opportunities across the state. For more information, please visit www.serveminnesota.org.
The Farm Bureau held their annual legislative reception in Saint Paul on Tuesday, an opportunity for legislators to visit with farmers from across the state and hear their legislative priorities.
Earlier in the day, I also had a chance to attend the Minnesota Association of Christian Schools Legislative Breakfast, who spoke about the work being done by our private religious schools around the state and shared their legislative priorities.
Today I visited Dakota Ridge School in Apple Valley and met with Superintendent Jane Berenz, Coordinator Lauren Trainer, and Director of Special Education Mary Kreger. According to their website Dakota Ridge works with "students with special education services in District 196 who face social, emotional, and behavioral challenges."
The staff at Dakota Ridge do amazing work day-in and day-out, working with our most high-needs students. Their persistence and desire to educate these kids is inspiring, and I'm grateful for the valuable work that they do in District 196. To learn more about Dakota Ridge and the great work they are doing, visit: http://www.district196.org/dr/
Constituents at the Capitol
Thanks to Greg and Frank from Wings Financial who stopped by my office for Credit Union Day at the Capitol to share their legislative priorities.
And thank you to Mike and Dean who came on the Gun Owners Lobby Day to talk about Second Amendment issues and gun legislation.
If you are visiting the Capitol soon and would like to schedule a time to meet, please call my office at email@example.com or call 651-296-4306. I always welcome your comments and feedback. Thank you for the privilege of serving you in Saint Paul.
Have a great weekend,
State Representative, District 57B
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