The big news last week at the Capitol was the release of Gov. Dayton’s budget for 2014-2015. We’ve had a decade of legislatures avoiding the hard choices needed to give the state fiscal security, but DFLers promised voters that, if we were given the honor of serving in the majority, we would make those choices.
Gov. Dayton has started us down that road with his budget. It protects those who had been the most adversely affected the past 10 years -- the middle class, students, children and seniors – and spells out one way to raise the revenue needed put an end to our structural deficits.
The budget recognizes that the key to a vibrant economy is a well-educated workforce. It allocates a total of $344 million for E-12 education or an average increase of $72 per student in 2014 and $339 per student in 2015. The budget provides:
Higher education finally gets addressed through a much-needed $240 million investment. Gov. Dayton seeks an additional $80 million in the Minnesota State Grant Program – the largest funding increase in direct student aid in more than 25 years. This will help an additional 5,000 Minnesotans achieve the dream of a college education. The budget also allows for an additional $300 per student in the State Grant Program.
Gov. Dayton also calls for $80 million for the MnSCU System and $80 million for the University of Minnesota. State funds for both MnSCU and the U of M were cut by more than 14% in the last budget.
And the budget is a true jobs budget. We’re recovering from the Great Recession but too slowly. Minnesotans need a strong economy that will create good jobs that pay living wages. We need to strengthen our middle class. This budget will create jobs, strengthen our infrastructure and make Minnesota a more competitive place to do business. These investments will yield new jobs, vibrant communities, and additional state and local tax revenues which will far exceed these initial investments.
Gov. Dayton addressed the skyrocketing property tax rates that have been forced on local governments. Because of the elimination of the Market Value Homestead Tax Credit and the massive cuts in Local Government Aid and County Program Aid, property taxes across the state have skyrocketed by 86% over the past 10 years.
The governor’s budget cuts property taxes by $1.4 billion over the next two years. Combined with new investments in Local Government Aid and County Program Aid, these measures would greatly reduce the property tax burden on middle class families.
The governor would pay for these investments with a mixture of new taxes and closing loopholes. The unveiling of the budget is just the first step in a long journey. Many of these proposals will be changed as lawmakers get a chance to study all the details. And there is an economic forecast in late February that we will need to take into consideration. Along the way, I promise to listen to all of your concerns.
We know what we have to do. And I am willing to listen to all suggestions. Good ideas have no party affiliation; they are neither DFL nor Republican. I’m ready to get to work.
Please feel free to contact me with your questions, suggestions and concerns. My office is room 551 in the State Office Building, 100 Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd. Saint Paul, Minnesota 55155. I can be reached by phone at 651-296-4176 and by email at email@example.com. You can also monitor activities at the House, track bills, watch live video and sign up for my email update list by going to http://www.house.mn.