The 2013 legislative session convened this week with a focus on the budget and school funding. I will be serving in my second term in the Minnesota House and look forward to representing the people of district 25A which includes the communities of Byron, Oronoco, Kasson, Mantorville, Dodge Center, Milton Township, Mantorville Township, Cascade Township, Oronoco Township, New Haven Township, Kalmar Township, Canisteo Township, Wasioja Township, and parts of the cities of Pine Island and Rochester.
I have been appointed to serve on the following committees: Education Finance, Energy Policy and Government Operations. I have also been appointed by the Minority Leader to serve on the Emergency Medical Services Regulatory Board.
Balancing the Budget
I am optimistic about the financial standing of the state as we begin 2013. After tackling a huge shortfall of $6 billion in 2011, Republican policies helped create a budget surplus towards the end of last year that was used to pay back money borrowed in previous years. This year, the Legislature again faces a projected shortfall for the 2013/2014 biennium of $1.1 billion which will have to be reconciled, but this amount is far smaller than the challenge lawmakers faced in 2011.
One topic emerging from the DFL caucus is the idea of tax increases, including the possibility of income and sales tax increases and the broadening of the sales tax to include clothing. This is one of several proposals that could drastically harm Minnesota’s economic comeback and threaten the gains we’ve seen these last two years.
The Secretary of State, Mark Ritchie, reported this week that 60,827 new businesses were filed in 2012 due to our improved business climate. This is an 18% increase over the previous year and the second highest number of new filings in our state’s history. Tax increases which discourage innovation and investment could impede the momentum we’re experiencing from Minnesota’s small businesses.
Just this week, we were informed by Governor Dayton’s administration that revenue projections have again been adjusted to include $114 million more than previously thought. We’ve got to continue with our reform and improvements to government.
DFL Put Agriculture on Back Burner
During Tuesday’s opening day of the Minnesota House of Representatives, we proposed an amendment to the temporary rules of the House that made sure agriculture wasn’t forgotten under the metro DFL leadership now in control. After winning the majority, DFL Speaker Paul Thissen moved the important functions of the House Agriculture Finance Committee into the Environment and Natural Resources Committee and eliminated that committee from existence. This new committee, made up of environmental and agriculture duties, is chaired by Rep. Wagenius of Minneapolis. Wagenius is a longtime partisan environmentalist with a history of voting against the interests of Greater Minnesota and agriculture in general.
House Republicans made the case to return agriculture funding and program oversight back to its own committee with leaders that thoroughly support Minnesota farmers, but DFL’ers voted “No.” Agriculture employs one in five Minnesotans, either directly or indirectly, and we can’t afford to put this critical piece of our state economy on the back burner like the current DFL leadership has done. I will continue to support the GOP amendment to give Agriculture Finance its own committee again and a proper chair that respects Minnesota’s vital farm community.
Paying Back the Shift
This past Monday night I attended a Byron School Board meeting and have also heard from members of the Triton School Board.
Republican policies led to a state budget surplus in 2012 of $2.5 billion which was promptly used to pay back a large piece of what was borrowed. Some of the surplus was used to refill a state budget reserve account. The remaining $1.6 billion in surplus funds paid off a large portion of the school shift that was borrowed from schools, starting with the funding shifted by the DFL in 2010.
School districts in my area will receive the following amounts from the most recent $1.3 billion in school shift payback:
ROCHESTER PUBLIC SCHOOL DISTRICT $23,277,159
KASSON-MANTORVILLE SCHOOL DISTRICT $2,913,177
ZUMBROTA-MAZEPPA SCHOOL DISTRICT $1,421,471
TRITON SCHOOL DISTRICT $1,701,878
PINE ISLAND PUBLIC SCHOOL DIST. $1,574,885
HAYFIELD PUBLIC SCHOOL DISTRICT $1,094,044
BYRON PUBLIC SCHOOL DISTRICT $2,438,734
When there is a budget surplus, law prohibits Governor Dayton from vetoing repayments of K-12 funding as he did in the last session.
I thank you for the opportunity to serve you in the Minnesota House of Representatives. Please feel free to contact me with any thoughts or concerns you may have. I can be reached at 651-296-9236 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.