Hello from the State Capitol,
I’ve been busy working on and hearing several pieces of legislation as well as the budget, school funding, and the health care exchange bill.
Investing in Mayo Clinic
On Wednesday, I took part in a large press conference with Governor Dayton, my legislative colleagues, and the CEO of Mayo Clinic to announce support for a major expansion plan over the next 20 years. You can read more details about the plan here, but Mayo is proposing spending $3 billion in additional projects over the next two decades which is likely to attract an additional $2-3 billion in private investment. This is part of a request from Mayo for public investment once they begin building. Mayo Clinic currently generates more than $9.6 billion in economic impact to the State of Minnesota – 4% of Minnesota’s GDP. In 2011, Mayo Clinic provided $842 million in benefits to the broader community, including cash and in-kind donations, education and research and services to those in need. In 2012, Mayo Clinic announced it would invest $700 million annually over the next five years to expand its facilities in Rochester and elsewhere.
As the world of health care becomes more competitive and large providers like Cleveland Clinic and Johns Hopkins look to nab more patients across the country and the globe, Mayo also has to invest more to stay competitive. Mayo Clinic is Minnesota’s largest private employer, employing over 36,000 people. And through Mayo Clinic Health system, there are facilities and employees in nine southern Minnesota communities.
Bills Moving Along
I’ve offered several bills for consideration so far this session. HF 132 was introduced last week and is an economic development loan program to foster businesses that have most of their customers outside of Minnesota. HF 123 would require the MN Dept. of Transportation to review land holdings so that unused property can be returned to local control or sold to bring in revenue; I expect to present this bipartisan bill in the Transportation Policy Committee in mid-February.
Making Education a Priority
During our Education Finance Committee meeting on Wednesday, the Governor’s budget proposal for education was presented. After months of partisan attacks from my DFL colleagues last year relating to the school shift, Dayton officials now seem comfortable with shifting funding away from our public schools, referring to it as a “savings” tool. When I first took office in early 2011, the shift (amount of money delayed to schools) was set at 30% of annual aid. After two years of GOP control, that shift will be back down to 12% or so at the end of this budget cycle (in July, 2013). While our goal is to completely repay the shift, Governor Dayton’s budget proposal would “save” taxpayers money by pushing this repayment all the way back to 2017.
Please view my comments in committee this week and know that my priority is to repay MN schools as quickly as possible:
Bill for Highway 14 Funding
I have signed on to two pieces of legislation relating to Highway 14 in our area. HF 210 would allocate funding to complete this project and HF 211 would prioritize the project on the state’s list of highway upgrades.
Dairy Day at the Capitol
Dairy Day was Wednesday in St. Paul, providing us an opportunity to highlight how important this industry - and agriculture in general - is to Minnesota's economy. Dairy production was up 4 percent last year, even though we experienced drought conditions. There are 455,000 cows in Minnesota on 3,900 licensed dairy farms. Each provides about 25,000 of economic activity to the state and Minnesota exported $218 million in dairy products last year, 13 percent of the national total.
Protecting 2nd Amendment Rights
Several legislative proposals regarding firearms will be heard next week. One example is HF 241 which would redefine our gun laws to ban certain firearms and restrict who can own guns. If you are interested in attending the Public Safety Committee hearing on Tues. Feb 5th, 2nd amendment supporters are meeting in 400S of the State Office Building from 8:30-9:30 a.m. and then will go down to Room 10 for the committee hearing. You will have the opportunity to sign up to testify on legislation at this time.
Information regarding parking around the MN State Capitol is available on the following link: