We turned a corner with budget work at the Capitol this week as the House and Senate found common ground on the various finance packages that will form the foundation of our state’s next two-year budget.
The Legislature is ahead of the normal schedule in terms of its work on budget bills. Now, we are turning the attention toward working with Gov. Mark Dayton to reach joint agreement on budget totals. I have been meeting with him this week to make progress on the higher education portion of our budget. Here is quick video from a press conference on Thursday where I spoke about this subject – and mentioned my wife, Joyce’s birthday – after meeting with the governor.
The finance bill agreements between the House and Senate include $1.15 billion in tax relief, $372 million in new, ongoing funding for road and bridge infrastructure, and more than $1.1 billion in increased funding for K-12 schools compared with the previous two-year budget.
The House also unveiled a capital investment bill this week. This $600 million bonding package includes three provisions of local interest which I authored. Two of them provide funding for the colleges in Fergus Falls and Wadena to conduct improvement projects. The other provision reallocates now-expired funding which had previously been provided for the redevelopment and reuse of the former state hospital in Fergus Falls.
On a final note, I would like to congratulate some local radio brethren for recent accomplishments. First, hats off to longtime Fergus Falls sports voice Craig Olson for receiving a Minnesota State High School League Outstanding Media Service Award. Also, nice job done by the folks at Leighton Broadcasting for raising the most money in Fergus Falls during the last season’s Salvation Army kettle drive.
Stay tuned for more news from the Capitol soon as we make our way into the last two full weeks of the 2017 session. I look forward to continued negotiations with the governor and hope he is ready to reach a compromise and establish finance targets so we can finish our work and enact a new state budget on schedule.