Poppe pleased with budget, education accomplishmentsPublished 7:20am Wednesday, May 22, 2013
As the Minnesota Legislature ends what could be a historic session, local legislators are mostly pleased with the decisions made that, among other things, produced a $38.3 billion two-year spending plan that hikes taxes on top income earners and on cigarettes, and distributes hefty spending increases to public schools, freezes tuition at state colleges and steers new money to job-creation programs.
“First and foremost, we put together a budget that is very transparent,” said Rep. Jeanne Poppe, DFL-Austin. “We didn’t shift money from one thing to the other, we didn’t hide how we were going to fund it, we didn’t take from something and reroute it.”
Poppe said the session brought many Minnesota residents to the table for issues ranging from same-sex marriage to a healthcare insurance exchange to child care unionization. She touted education accomplishments such as funding for all-day kindergarten throughout the state, a freeze on tuition for public colleges and universities, a new suite of tests to measure student progress instead of the Minnesota Comprehensive Assessments and more oversight on public higher education officials.
“Everybody came on board [in education],” Poppe said. “The teachers, principals, superintendents and school boards.”
Arguably the biggest issue not related to the state’s finances was the historic same-sex marriage vote, which ended with Minnesota becoming the 12th state to allow same-sex marriage. Poppe voted in favor of the bill when it came before the House of Representatives, while Sen. Dan Sparks, DFL-Austin, voted against the bill in the Senate.
Poppe said her decision was motivated by the economic benefits of allowing same-sex marriage in Minnesota, which could help create a supportive environment for and encourage lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) residents to stay in the state.
“What we did was extremely beneficial and affirming for those seeking it, and for those who didn’t want it, they’re not going to be harmed,” Poppe said.
Not everything Democrats wanted to address passed this session, however. Gun legislation and an anti-bullying bill were among several issues to fizzle on the floor as the session ran out of time. In addition, House and Senate Democrats couldn’t reach an agreement on a minimum wage increase this session, with the Senate approving a raise from $6.15 per hour to $7.75, while the House voted for a bill to raise the minimum wage to more than $9.50 an hour.
Though Poppe said she was disappointed legislators couldn’t agree on minimum wage, she doesn’t think the issue will die out. She said legislators will likely take time before the next legislative session to examine the issue further.
“I really do think it’s OK to spend the time to come up with a right answer for a minimum wage increase,” she said.
Gov. Mark Dayton and Democratic legislative leaders call the just-finished session a success and say they accomplished what they set out to do.
Dayton and the lawmakers held a Tuesday news conference at the Capitol, just a few hours after the session wrapped at midnight. They say they delivered on promises to raise income taxes on the wealthy to fund spending increases for schools, to freeze tuition at state colleges and to offer relief to property taxpayers.
Republican leaders are traveling around the state to criticize the Democratic approach. They say the tax hikes will burden Minnesota business owners. They have also complained about DFL moves to grant union organizing authority to some in-home day-care workers and personal care attendants to the elderly and disabled.
—The Associated Press contributed to this report.