By Ken Martin, Chairman, Minnesota DFL
At the end of the 2015 legislative session, Gov. Mark Dayton vetoed three bills because he knew they could be better. After the conclusion of the special session, we can appreciate Gov. Dayton’s actions; his vetoes did improve the bills.
Because of Gov. Dayton’s leadership, Minnesota’s E-12 education system will see an additional $525 million in funding. Every classroom in the state will benefit from this funding. Gov. Dayton was also successful in securing additional funding for early learning initiatives, English language learners and American Indian students.
The Governor’s veto of the environment bill provided better environmental protections. In addition to securing landmark buffer legislation that will significantly improve water quality in rivers and streams by preventing pollution from entering
our waters, Gov. Dayton fought against indefinite amnesty for polluters, weakening water quality standards and delaying essential environment reviews.
Under the jobs and energy bill, Gov. Dayton secured funding to help provide job opportunities for Minnesotans with disabilities as well as funding to help people with mental illness so they won’t experience homelessness. Gov. Dayton also ensured that broadband grants were competitive for rural communities.
While Gov. Dayton worked with legislators to produce these positive outcomes, it’s disappointing to know that with a $1.9 billion surplus, legislators could have done so much more. Instead of building on the gains Gov. Dayton and DFL legislators made for all Minnesotans during the last state budget, Republicans left almost $1 billion on the bottom line in hopes of returning to the Capitol in 2016 to provide tax giveaways to corporations.
Republicans also failed to keep their campaign promises to residents of rural communities. While they ran on reigning in government spending, not increasing taxes and having an understanding of “family budgets,” they did the exact opposite. They passed the largest budget in state history, put $30 million in tax increases into the education bill and refused proposals ranging from free pre-school for all 4-year-olds to freezing college tuition that would have had a direct impact on middle-class families’ wallets.
Newspapers in rural communities were not shy about calling out Republicans for their actions. In April, the Fargo Forum said, “They campaigned one way, but are legislating another.” Days later the same paper reported, “The members of the Republican Majority, who campaigned on helping rural and small-city Minnesota, seem to have forgotten their promise.” In May, the Rochester Post-Bulletin brought attention to the Republicans’ action, calling it a “shameless divide-and-conquer strategy.”
As legislators attend community events this summer, I encourage Minnesotans to let Republicans know citizens are setting high expectations for the 2016 session. With $1 billion on the bottom line, they must fund the priorities most important to working Minnesotans and work with Gov. Dayton and DFL legislators to create an even better Minnesota for all Minnesotans.