I wanted to provide you with an update on some of the major issues being debated at the legislature.
Many farmers and members of the agriculture community have contacted me to express their concern over Governor Dayton's proposal to increase the buffer strips around all state waterways from their current level of 16.5 feet to 50 feet. Many have concerns about instituting a one-size-fits-all buffer across all state waterways, and worry about losing so many acres of crop land.
Some have also suggested that some of the water quality concerns can be addressed simply by enforcing existing buffer laws. Farmers are good stewards of the land and the environment, and want to be partners in the effort to keep our state's waters clean. I hope the Governor will continue to work with agriculture groups on a plan that addresses their concerns and addresses water quality.
The most important job the legislature must accomplish before our May 18th deadline is passing a budget for 2016-2017. The House has proposed a general fund budget of about $39.9 billion with about $2 billion in tax relief, compared to the Governor and the Senate who each propose about $43 billion in spending.
Simply put, Republicans believe that state government should not be growing faster than family budgets. If Governor Dayton's $43 billion budget were to take effect, government would have grown by 25% since he took office. This simply is not sustainable given that family budgets and personal incomes are only growing at a small fraction of that rate.
The Republican budget proposes a modest 1.7% increase in state spending, and features $2 billion in tax relief that will primarily target putting money back in the pockets of families, farmers, students, and veterans.
For education, our budget would increase per-pupil education funding by an average of $179, and includes $30 million in increased funding for early learning scholarships and $9.5 million in increased funding for school readiness aid.
As I've mentioned before, our budget includes our Road and Bridge Act of 2015, which proposes to invest more than $7 billion in our roads and bridges over the next ten years, primarily funded by using existing sales taxes on rental cars, vehicle leases, and auto parts.
Our budget also takes care of our seniors by revamping the way our state reimburses our state's nursing homes, which will mean hundreds of millions in increased funding to help care for our aging population.
Over the next several weeks, the House and Senate will pass their respective budget bills, and then will go to conference committee where legislators will negotiate to find a compromise that can pass the DFL Senate, the Republican House, and be signed by DFL Governor Dayton.
If both parties come to the table and negotiate in good faith, I'm very confident that we can finish our work on time, and pass a budget that invests in education, transportation, and other priorities Minnesotans care about while limiting the excessive growth in government.
I hope you'll stay in touch as session comes to a close by emailing me at email@example.com
or calling my office at 651-296-5368
. You can also follow my updates on Facebook at www.house.mn/24A
Have a great weekend,
State Representative, District 24A