Gov. Mark Dayton gave his State of the State Address in the House chamber this week. It lacked any groundbreaking components and was a fairly standard speech.
Our state is showing economic improvement since back in 2011 when we in the former Republican majority inherited a $6 billion shortfall to start that session. We now are projected to have a $1 billion surplus. Dayton took credit for that turnaround in his speech, even though he warned back then that Republicans would have to take responsibility for future budget problems that he believed would result. The least he could do is now give credit where it is due.
The governor also highlighted the importance of education in his speech. I agree with him that education is closely connected with good jobs and economic growth. Initiatives I have championed are up for consideration in this year’s omnibus K-12 education policy bill. I am the lone House Republican serving on the committee working to prepare this bill for final consideration in the Legislature.
One of my measures conducts school-year-long student teacher programs to raise the preparation standards for prospective teachers. Other provisions follow recommendations from the Career Pathways and Technical Advisory Task Force. I serve on that panel, which is identifying ways the state can help match student training with the state’s workforce demands.
The governor also mentioned this year’s capital investment bill that would bond to pay for construction projects throughout the state. Dayton said he would like a $1.2 billion project. That price tag appears to be too large to gain support from Republicans, which is necessary for passage since bonding bills require a super majority. I encourage the governor to come to grips with the reality that he needs to come in at a lower number if we are going to get this bill done before we are scheduled to adjourn May 19.
The subject of tax cuts also came up in the governor’s speech. He touted the fact Democrats have cut taxes this session. What he neglected to say is they also increased taxes and fees by $2.4 billion last year. It is good we were able to repeal new taxes on warehousing, telecommunications and commercial equipment repairs this year, but the vast majority of the increases remain on the books. They were linked to the historic hike in state spending which passed last year, when they raised all-funds spending by $1,500 for every man, woman and child in the state.
Minnesota is in relatively good shape these days, especially when you consider how far we were set back during the Great Recession. It’s just that some of us have a difference in opinion regarding how we got here and what we should do to solidify our state for the future.