Last session, Minnesota lawmakers allocated $525 million in new funding to our schools, and now a current House bill invests even more into our education system.
On April 25, a strong, bipartisan group of representatives approved a comprehensive education funding proposal that includes several initiatives benefiting Greater Minnesota’s schools. Addressing the teacher shortage and reducing the funding disparity between rural and Metro Area schools are among the bill's headliners.
The plan also provides $7 million in rural education broadband programs to boost access for students and teachers; $1 million for career and industrial certification incentives; and $900,000 for mobile career and technology education labs, which would bring resources directly to rural Minnesota’s students.
In 2015 we made a historic investment in our schools, and the House has now approved an additional $56 million this year in order for them to fund other purposes. Education was a top legislative priority last year, and I’m pleased we’re continuing that message this year.
But transportation stands to be the featured topic of session. As you’ll recall, both the House and Senate approved long term transportation funding plans last session. The House wants to redirect some already-collected transportation-related sales taxes and use some bonding and surplus proceeds to make a $7 billion road and bridge investment. The Senate wants to raise your gas taxes by a minimum of 16 cents per-gallon.
A House/Senate conference committee was appointed to work out a compromise, and it met on April 29 for the first time this session.
Prior to that meeting, my road and bridge work was taking place behind the scenes. In that regard I have met with the transportation chairman and his staff and continue to lobby on behalf of Highway 14, emphasizing its importance to our region and our state. I’ve also urged them to support increases to the Corridors of Commerce program, which is likely critical towards moving Highway 14 improvements forward.
Since I’ve been in office, we’ve seen a 2.5 mile, four-lane extension east of Owatonna from Highway 218 towards Dodge Center, replaced the bridge over Interstate 35, and completed the old Highway 14 turnback project from State Avenue to 24th Avenue in Owatonna.
I continue to recognize just how necessary continued Highway 14 progress is to our area, and know that I am fighting for it as we prepare to finalize a compromise agreement for our long term transportation needs.