THANK YOU to everyone who came to my three Sit Down with Sandy stops around the district last weekend! Each one had a lively discussion, with respectful participants. It’s so helpful to me to listen to those who haven’t made it to the Capitol for a visit. I’ll be planning more of these opportunities after session, and will keep you informed when those are scheduled.
Now that we’re finished negotiating our budget with the Senate, it’s time for the Governor to work with the House and the Senate on the final budget.
This weekend leaders from the Legislature (Senate and House) are meeting with the Governor to arrive at joint budget targets. This is no small task as the two are a little more than $1 billion apart. Once the overall budget targets are set, each budget bill (Agriculture, Higher Education, Transportation, etc.) will be negotiated, sent to the floors of the Senate and House for votes and then to the Governor for signature.
The good news is, we’re well ahead of schedule compared to a regular budget year. There’s two weeks left, and the Legislature is committed to finishing on time.
In St. Paul, as anywhere, nothing gets done in isolation. Building coalitions around common interests is the best way to make progress. As I have mentioned in past emails, one of these coalitions I’m working with is the Rural Caucus. This group allows legislators from Greater Minnesota to work together to advocate around common issues. Several of us have taken broadband funding as our priority and this past week have met with leadership from both the Senate and the House to emphasize the importance of broadband connections for rural economic development.
I’m also part of the Bipartisan Caucus. There’s such value in working with members from the opposite party, and I value building those relationships. To me, results for our area and our state supersede political party, and I’m always open to listening and learning from the other side of the aisle.
I’m encouraged by the progress we’re making for our district. Several of my bills are advancing. The Grand Rapids pedestrian bridge project was included in the initial House bonding bill, which is a good sign going forward. While this initial House proposal was for $600 million, I'm still hopeful a final agreement will include the Myles Reif Performing Arts project and enough money for the Public Facilities Authority so that our communities looking to replace and improve their waste water treatment facilities will have the support they need to complete their projects.
The House and Senate transportation proposal includes $1 million to complete a rail study in Grand Rapids. This is an economic development priority shared by IEDC, Itasca County, the cities of Grand Rapids and Cohasset and several area industries.
Progress was also made this week in seeking a legislative “fix” that will meet with approval from Blandin Paper Company and Itasca County regarding the property tax devaluation resulting from Blandin lands being placed in a conservation easement. Kudos to county officials and leadership and staff here in the House who have been working tirelessly on this issue since it was first brought to our attention.
As always, please call or email with questions. We have a little more than two weeks left in the legislative session, and I’d love to hear from you.
Happy Cinco de Mayo! Enjoy the nice weather,