Gov. Dayton’s budget play echoes state priorities

Published 7:01 am Sunday, March 20, 2016

This week, Gov. Mark Dayton released his supplemental budget proposal for the state’s $900 million surplus. His plan echoes the priorities stated in his State of the State Address, ensuring Minnesota’s economy works for all Minnesotans.

The governor’s plan calls for significant investments in Greater Minnesota, including: $100 million in broadband development, $21.5 million in Local Government Aid, $25 million to the County Program Aid, and education programs for early learners. Although the House majority made promises to not leave Greater Minnesota behind, their original 2015 budget failed to produce any real, significant proposals. The efforts made by Dayton in the supplemental budget provides opportunities to prioritize Greater Minnesota and take action on issues that went unresolved last year.

Access to high speed Internet is a basic necessity of the 21st century and is essential for our local economy to thrive; our students, farmers and small businesses depend on it. An allocation of $100 million for broadband is a good start to address the digital divide between rural Minnesota and the metro. Agricultural production relies heavily on broadband to maximize crop production and monitor farm animal health. I aimed to improve Greater Minnesota’s broadband access by establishing a broadband development grant and tax credit program when I coauthored HF 2373 with several House colleagues last year. Unfortunately the bill has not yet been heard in the House.

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The governor’s Supplemental Budget also calls for a one-time $46.5 million allocation to local governments, which include Local Government Aid (LGA) and County Program Aid (CPA).

A boost to LGA and CPA will provide much needed tax relief to middle class individuals, families and farmers. Both types of aid are essential tools to provide cities and counties with the resources to fund transportation, human services and public safety programs of statewide significance. Without these aid programs, providing high quality services to local communities would become the state’s responsibility. The governor’s plan will create opportunity for local governments to maintain our high quality standard of living in Minnesota.

We cannot wait another year to pass a comprehensive, sustainable transportation plan. The governor emphasized in his budget that long term investments are necessary to build a better transportation network for Minnesota’s economy. A transportation bill that irresponsibly shifts money from our general fund, and takes away our ability to fund education and healthcare, is not a long term solution. Dayton is right to want to solve this problem rather than just stew about it.

Minnesota is one of the most expensive states for families who seek child care. The governor’s proposed $28.3 million investment to the Child Care Assistance Program would provide financial assistance to help low-income families pay for high quality child care. If we invest in this program, we would be making a profound difference for parents who are pursing work or school.

I look forward to working in partnership with the governor to move forward on some, if not all, of these proposals that would positively impact rural Minnesota.

If you have any questions, please contact my office at 651-296-4193, by mail at 291 State Office Building, 100 Dr. Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd., St. Paul, MN 55155, or via email