As the legislature has finished both regular and special sessions, I want to provide you a summary of some of the accomplishments of the 2015 session. Last November, Minnesota voters elected a divided government – with a DFL Governor, a DFL Senate, and a Republican House. During the 2015 Legislative Session, the Governor and the Legislature compromised to make investments in education, infrastructure, and other essential services. While I wish we could have passed a comprehensive transportation plan and a tax bill this year, there are still many good things that happened as a result of the 2015 Legislative Session. I’ve included a list, along with some links to fact sheets that Governor Dayton’s staff have compiled below:
E-12 EDUCATION – We invested $525 million in E-12 education this year, including:
· Access to child care and early learning for thousands more young learners across Minnesota
· More funding for every school, with 2% increases in each of the next two years
· Reducing the Head Start waiting list, giving over 1,200 kids a great start in school
· Important new investments in American Indian Education
HIGHER EDUCATION – While Governor Dayton proposed a tuition freeze at all state Colleges and Universities in his budget, the final budget compromise does not extend the tuition freeze. However, Governor Dayton and lawmakers agreed to invest $166 million to make higher education more affordable, including:
· Increased funding for the State Grant Program for direct financial aid to students
· Returning the U of M Medical School to national prominence
CLEAN WATER – Significant work was done this session to add new protections that will enhance and protect water quality in Minnesota. A new buffer strip law passed that will cover an additional 110,000 acres of land around the state’s lakes, rivers, and streams in permanent vegetation – helping prevent pollution, and keeping our waters clean.
NEEDED INFRASTRUCTURE INVESTMENTS – Governor Dayton and the Legislature reached agreement on a $140 million Jobs Bill that makes needed investments in critical infrastructure projects, including:
· Poultry and veterinary labs to help prevent and respond to diseases like avian influenza
· Railway safety grade separations at three rail crossings, including locally at the Vicksburg Lane crossing in Plymouth
· School building property transfer from the West Metro Education Program to the Robbinsdale School District.
· Higher education campus improvements, flood mitigation efforts, and disaster relief.
STRONG FAMILIES, SAFER COMMUNITIES – We made new investments in stronger, safer communities. Some of those measures included:
· Reforms to the child protection system, to keep all kids safe from abuse and neglect. Hennepin County will be hiring 100 new child protection caseworkers this year.
· More law enforcement officers to track down and apprehend dangerous fugitives
· Supportive and safe housing for homeless and sexually exploited youth
· Access to employment for Minnesotans with disabilities
· Support to help prevent Minnesotans with mental illness from becoming homeless
· Stronger laws cracking down on distracted driving
HEALTH CARE – The Governor and legislature made needed investments and reforms to improve health care for seniors, vulnerable adults, and all Minnesotans, including:
· Major new investments in nursing homes statewide
· Historic investments in mental health that will improve the lives of many Minnesotans
· Tax-free ABLE (Achieving a Better Life Experience) savings accounts for Minnesotans with disabilities
· A task force that will help chart the future for quality, affordable health care in Minnesota
Despite the many good things that were accomplished this session, it is important that we recommit ourselves to delivering on additional priorities that Minnesotans expect next session. With roughly $1 billion of the budget surplus left on the bottom line, state lawmakers have the resources to accomplish important objectives, like a comprehensive transportation plan that invests in roads, bridges and improved transit. We need to pass a tax bill that provides targeted relief to working Minnesotans. We also must continue working with parents and schools to ensure that every child has access to a great start through quality early childhood education.
I appreciate the input that came from constituents during the session. The input is extremely valuable to the legislative process. If you have questions or need additional information on the legislative session, please contact me.