Thank you to Fergus Falls Mayor Ben Schierer and others involved in the Fergus Falls Regional Treatment Center re-purposing project for coming to St. Paul this week to talk about this issue.
I enjoyed receiving a project update from the Fergus group, which also met with people from the Minnesota Historical Society, the chairman of the House Capital Investment Committee and others. A developer has filed a non-binding letter of intent to re-purpose the RTC. The developer and local officials are working on their portions of the legwork and the Legislature will be considering a bonding request I authored to help conduct the work.
There are many moving parts in this project, but the bottom line is we are working to find a win-win situation that will allow us to put this valuable property to the best possible use.
This week the House and Senate both provided final approval for bills which provide $10 million for the problem-plagued Minnesota Licensing and Registration System (MNLARS). Without funding, the new MN.IT Commissioner Johanna Clyborne testified MNLARS contractors will be laid off at the end of the month, which would make things even worse. The new system has encountered serious problems and the legislation we approved will bring more accountability to make sure results are delivered. We really need this system to work so people can complete their license and registration transactions in a timely manner, so let’s hope we can finally turn a corner with this program.
Most of our time at this point in the session is being spent in committees as we work to get bills moving through the first stages of the legislative process. One bill I authored to update the method by where we select regents for the University of Minnesota system has cleared its committee hurdles and is ready to be voted on by the full House. It would form a new commission of four House and four Senate members to make candidate recommendations to the Legislature. On a side note, regent openings will be coming soon, so keep that in mind if you may be interested in serving.
On a final note, Gov. Dayton recently released his supplemental budget proposal and, while it is good the governor let us know where he stands by putting out this plan, it is hard to fathom the Legislature supporting his significant increases in both taxing and spending.
The governor proposes raising taxes by more than a billion dollars to fund hundreds of millions more in state spending. In addition, he is looking to raise taxes on vehicle licensing/registration transactions to pay for fixes to the aforementioned broken new MNLARS system.
We in the House have no plans to ask Minnesotans to pay more taxes when we have a budget surplus of around $329 million and climbing. Some of the governor’s proposals like school safety and funding to help deputy registrars hurt by the MNLARS disaster deserve strong consideration. We are thoroughly reviewing his proposals and will assemble our own blueprint in the House.
I will be back with more news soon and, as always, your input is welcome.