A day after political partisanship was the order of the day during the first House floor session of the 2016 session, Gov. Mark Dayton issued a challenge to all legislators calling for unity on key issues.
“We succeed when we do what we have to do to be successful. We fail when we stop,” Dayton said during Wednesday night’s State of the State address. “That is why we can’t stop now. There is still so much that we must do. So many challenges and opportunities that, if we face them and seize this moment, will propel our state farther ahead.”
The speech, held at the McNamara Alumni Center on the University of Minnesota’s Minneapolis campus due to Capitol renovations, gave the state’s top elected official a chance to share his priorities before the Legislature gets too far into its 10-week session.
House Speaker Kurt Daudt (R-Crown) was “optimistic” after the governor’s remarks.
“While we may not agree on the path on the way to get there, we did find that there are some shared goals in his agenda and our agenda. … There are things that we can work on together.”
Calling protecting the state’s fiscal integrity his top goal this session, Dayton was vague as to new proposals, noting his supplemental budget is to be released next Tuesday. The state currently has a projected $900 million surplus at the end of the current biennium on June 30, 2017, $300 million less than was forecast in November.
Dayton said his supplemental budget proposal will propose increasing the child care tax credit, and he will support federal tax conformities.
The governor said much of Minnesota’s success — individually and collectively — has come through hard work, be it farmers in fields, teachers in classrooms, or doctors in clinics.
“The corollary is that, if we stop working together, we stop making progress,” he said. “When we slacken our efforts, pause, or take a break, we fall behind.”
He said a perfect example of that is in transportation.
Despite a roughly $6 billion transportation funding shortfall over the next decade, lawmakers failed to pass a comprehensive transportation package last session that would have included money for road and bridge improvements, and possibly transit. While members from both sides of the aisle continue to say that passing a funding plan is a goal this session, they continue to differ in how to pay.
Meanwhile, the DFL-backed package the Senate passed last spring proposes to raise roughly $11 billion for roads, bridges and transit by instituting a new gas tax and expanding a metro area transit-dedicated sales tax from one-quarter to three-quarters of a cent.
“I’m willing to be flexible, but I will also insist on a real solution,” Dayton said. “No smoke and mirrors. No double-counting existing revenues. No counting non-existent revenues. This is about construction projects, not campaign posters. And it’s too urgent to be left for another year.”
A primary policy effort from the governor in 2015, and again this year, is expanding access to pre-kindergarten for all 4-year-olds. A law enacted last year includes more than $95 million in additional funding for several existing prekindergarten and early learning programs that target children from low-income families.
Dayton wants more.
“There are disagreements over how and where to best provide those services, particularly for 4-year-olds. Some of those disagreements are professional; others are political. Sixty-thousand Minnesota 4-year-olds need Minnesota’s grown-ups to go beyond their big self-interests and place those little interests first.”
In January, Dayton said he wants to invest nearly $220 million to modernize Minnesota’s drinking water systems and wastewater infrastructure as part of a larger borrowing plan.
He again challenged legislators to act now.
“All Minnesotans should have the right to clean, safe water, for their drinking, bathing, and recreation. No one else should be allowed to take it away from them. Assuring that safety is our legal and moral obligation.”
Dayton spoke about of handful of other issues. The following are excerpts from those areas:
“Minnesota has always been at its best when we work together,” Dayton concluded. “We are better when we recognize and anticipate the challenges ahead, and come together as one Minnesota to create opportunities for every child, every family, every person to succeed.
“That is the Minnesota, which has built our success. That is the Minnesota that you and I must work together to achieve.”
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