Children and families top Gov. Dayton’s budget priorities

After a decade of deficits, state leaders are now facing a $1 billion budget surplus created by Minnesota’s strong and growing economy. As Minnesota begins the discussion about where to invest the state’s budget surplus, Gov. Mark Dayton has proposed a two-year budget that would make bold new investments in education, put more money in the pockets of working families, and make long-overdue investments in the state’s aging and underfunded transportation system.

“Minnesota’s future success – the health of our families, the vitality of our communities, and the prosperity of our state – will depend upon our making excellent educations available to all Minnesotans,” said Gov. Dayton. “That is exactly what my budget proposal aims to do.”

Excellent educations for every student

  • Statewide PreK – The Governor’s budget would invest $109 million to provide 31,000 four-year-olds access to free, high-quality PreK learning opportunities.
  • More Funding for Every School – The Governor’s budget would invest $373 million in PreK-12 schools statewide, increasing the per-pupil funding formula to $5,948 by 2017. It would give local school districts the resources and flexibility to meet the needs of their students and classrooms – from lowering class sizes, hiring new counselors, investing in technology, or providing other needed programs and services.
  • Tackling the Achievement Gap – In addition to statewide PreK, the Governor’s budget would invest in a multi-layered approach to narrow the state’s achievement gap. It would eliminate the current Head Start waiting list, provide support to help all students read well, target educational support to parents of at-risk children ages 0-8, make additional investments in English Language Learning, and more.
  • Healthy Schools, Healthy Kids – The Governor’s budget includes important new investments in school nutrition and behavioral health in our schools. It would provide free breakfasts for all PreK-3 students, fund in-school programs to improve student behavior, and support parents of at-risk children.
  • Investing in Higher Education – In 2013, the Governor and Legislature reversed a decade of funding cuts, investing $250 million in initiatives to make higher education more affordable for hundreds of thousands of students. This year, the Governor’s budget would invest an additional $93 million to hold down tuition growth at the University of Minnesota, expand the State Grant Program, continue reciprocity arrangements with neighboring states and improve research outcomes at the University of Minnesota Medical School.

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Groundhog Day: Republican edition

Groundhog-Day-Animal-2A month into the 2015 Legislative Session, House and Senate Republicans are making it feel like the movie “Groundhog Day,” where the same things happen over and over again.

“The House Republicans’ first bill of the session would provide businesses with tax breaks,” said DFL Chairman Ken Martin. “When it comes to funding repairs to Minnesota’s roads and bridges, Republican are looking to shift money around rather than look for a fair solution to this problem.

“It seems like deja vu. The Republicans keep doing the same thing expecting a different result, which is shortsighted. The Republicans keep playing the same play over and over again, putting special interest before governing for the best interest of all Minnesotans.”

In contrast, Gov. Mark Dayton has proposed a state budget prioritizing children and families. Through his “Excellent Education for Every Student” proposal, Gov. Dayton would invest in statewide pre-K for four-year olds; eliminate the HeadStart wait list; and provide free breakfast for all pre-K-3 students. Families would benefit from the Governor’s proposal to expand the Child and Dependent Care Credit as well as improve access to high-quality child care for low-income families.

Gov. Dayton has also proposed a plan to build the infrastructure necessary for our expanding economy.

“More than half of Minnesota’s roads are more than 50 years old and 40 percent of the state’s bridges are 40 years old,” Martin said. “This is placing a burden on commuters and businesses. Figures show that poor road conditions cost motorists an extra $1.2 billion in vehicle repairs each year. Traffic congestion alone cost business owners $232 million each year in additional freight costs.

“If businesses do not have access to an educated workforce and safe and efficient roads to move their goods from manufacturing to market, they will leave our state. Minnesota families deserve better.”

Martin said hopefully Minnesotans won’t have to relive the Republican rhetoric for too long before they finally understand what it takes to move Minnesota forward and make things right for Minnesota families.

A Better Budget for a Better Minnesota

Dayton PhotoToday, Gov. Mark Dayton rolled out his proposed budget for the next two years, which would invest the state’s $1 billion surplus in initiatives to improve our education system, and strengthen the middle class.

Here’s a look at the Governor’s budget proposal at a glance:

  • Focus on students and children – The Governor would dedicate over half of the state’s budget surplus to education and other initiatives to improve the lives and educations of children and families across Minnesota. It would make bold, strategic investments to narrow the achievement gap and help ensure all kids receive excellent educations.
  • Investing in higher education – The Governor’s budget would make important investments in higher education to hold down tuition, provide additional financial aid, and improve the quality of our higher education institutions.
  • Tax cuts for the middle class – The Governor’s budget would target tax relief to hundreds of thousands of middle-class Minnesotans, including Child and Dependent Care Credits for 130,000 working families and immediate tax relief for 200,000 middle-income Minnesotans.
  • Needed investments in transportation infrastructure – The Governor has proposed a straightforward, honest solution to fix Minnesota’s aging and underfunded transportation systems. The Governor’s plan would repair or replace 2,200 miles of roads and over 330 bridges statewide.

A more comprehensive look at the Governor’s budget proposal is included below. A detailed spreadsheet is available on the MMB website.

Additional information about Gov. Dayton’s budget proposal is available on the online took kit. You can also follow the conversation on Twitter and Facebook.

A $1 BILLION STATE BUDGET SURPLUS

  • Improving economy – Right now, Minnesota’s unemployment rate (3.6 percent) is the 5th-lowest in the nation, and the lowest it has been in nearly 14 years. Minnesota has added 222,000 new jobs over the last five years alone.
  • Stable budget – After a decade of deficits, state leaders are now facing a $1 billion budget surplus created by: Minnesota’s strong and growing economy; and the fair and balanced budget enacted by Gov. Dayton and the Legislature in 2013.

EXCELLENT EDUCATIONS FOR EVERY STUDENT

When Governor Dayton took office four years ago, he promised Minnesotans that he would increase funding for education every year he was Governor – no excuses, no exceptions. That is a promise the Governor has kept, and one he will continue to keep in his second term.

  • Building on previous investments – Over the last four years, the Governor and Legislature invested $895 million in PreK-12 education. The two-year budget introduced today delivers again on that promise, investing an additional $373 million in PreK-12 education. It would also provide $93 million for initiatives that would improve our higher education system, and make it more affordable for Minnesota families. These bold new investments would help ensure every Minnesota student receives an excellent education.
  • Statewide PreK – The Governor’s budget would invest $109 million to provide 31,000 four-year-olds access to free, high-quality PreK learning opportunities.
  • More Funding for Every School – The Governor’s budget would invest $373 million in PreK-12 schools statewide, increasing the per-pupil funding formula to $5,948 by 2017. It would give local school districts the resources and flexibility to meet the needs of their students and classrooms – from lowering class sizes, hiring new counselors, investing in technology, or providing other needed programs and services.
  • Tackling the Achievement Gap – In addition to statewide PreK, the Governor’s budget would invest in a multi-layered approach to narrow the state’s achievement gap. It would eliminate the current Head Start waiting list, provide support to help all students read well, target educational support to parents of at-risk children ages 0-8, make additional investments in English Language Learning, and more.
  • Healthy Schools, Healthy Students – The Governor’s budget includes important new investments in school nutrition and behavioral health in our schools. It would provide free breakfasts for all PreK-3 students, fund in-school programs to improve student behavior, and support parents of at-risk children.
  • Investing in Higher Education – In 2013, the Governor and Legislature reversed a decade of funding cuts, investing $250 million in initiatives to make higher education more affordable for hundreds of thousands of students. This year, the Governor’s budget would invest an additional $93 million to hold down tuition growth at the University of Minnesota, expand the State Grant Program, continue reciprocity arrangements with neighboring states and improve research outcomes at the University of Minnesota Medical School.

Investing in children and families

  • Child and Dependent Care Credit – Minnesota is the 4th-most expensive state for child care in the nation, with annual care costs totaling over $10,800 for one child. The Governor’s budget proposal would invest $99.9 million in expanding the Child and Dependent Care Credit, making child care more affordable for 130,000 low- and middle-income families. The average family would save $481 per year.
  • Supporting Children and Families – The Governor’s budget would also invest an additional $44 million to improve access to high-quality child care for low-income families, provide additional outreach to parents of at-risk children, increasing the state’s investment in children’s mental health services, and enhancing the state’s child protection efforts.

Other investments for a Better Minnesota

  • Job Creation and Broadband Expansion – The Governor’s budget proposal would make new investments in broadband expansion, and initiatives to train Minnesota’s workforce for good-paying careers.
  • Improving Railway Safety – Every day, trains carrying oil and other hazardous materials pass through Minnesota. These trains present risks to public safety and our natural resources. That is why the Governor’s budget would strengthen our ability to prevent disasters, and respond quickly if they do occur.
  • Mental Health Investments – The Governor’s budget would invest in a continuum of care solution that promotes mental health and early intervention. It would ensure that children and adults with mental illness, and their families, have access to the services they need.

Governor Dayton Details Plan to Fix Minnesota’s Aging, Underfunded Transportation System

Comprehensive proposal would fund roads, bridges and transit across Minnesota, and create 119,000 new jobs

For years, state leaders have failed to adequately fund Minnesota’s highways, roads, bridges, and public transit systems. Insufficient funding has left them inadequate, congested, and needing repairs.

On January 26, 2015, Governor Mark Dayton proposed a straightforward, honest solution to fix Minnesota’s aging transportation systems. Governor Dayton’s plan would invest $6 billion over the next ten years to address the state’s highway funding deficit, invest $2.356 billion in local government transportation projects, and provide $2.92 billion for Metro and Greater Minnesota transit systems. The Governor’s proposal would create an estimated 119,000 new jobs,* and build the infrastructure necessary to meet the demands of a growing population and an expanding state economy.

“Inadequate transportation clogs our lives with worse traffic congestion, longer commutes, more dangerous travel conditions. Those deficiencies restrict our future economic growth and detract from our quality of life,” said Governor Dayton. “If we continue to avoid these problems, they will only get worse. It’s time to begin to solve them. I urge the Legislature to work with me this session to begin to repair and improve Minnesota’s transportation systems.”

“Minnesota’s roads, bridges, and transit networks form the backbone of our economy. After decades of decline, we must invest in these systems to protect Minnesota’s long-term economic vitality,” said Lt. Governor Tina Smith. “The plan that Governor Dayton and I are proposing would provide the resources we need to build a modern transportation system – driving continued business and job growth, and protecting the quality of life enjoyed by all Minnesotans.”

The problem is real. In 2012, Governor Dayton convened a bipartisan panel of experts – including policymakers, business and labor leaders, Cabinet officials, and city and county officials from across the state – to study the funding needs of Minnesota’s highways, roads, bridges, and public transit systems. The Transportation Finance Advisory Committee’s (TFAC) analysis concluded that Minnesota faces a $6 billion state highway transportation funding deficit over the next ten years to preserve our existing system, and make the improvements needed for our long-term prosperity. Facing a large and growing list of transportation needs, declining revenues, and an expected one million new residents over the next 25 years, the need for a major new investment in transportation is clear.

“The state’s foremost experts agree on two things: this problem is real, and it cannot be resolved without a major investment,” said MnDOT Commissioner Charlie Zelle. “But Minnesotans didn’t need a bipartisan panel of experts to tell them what they already know – that our transportation system is in serious disrepair, and getting worse. This problem presents us with two simple and starkly different options: invest for the future, or do nothing and let the problem get much worse. We choose to invest.”

Governor Dayton’s Plan: What It Buys
Governor Dayton’s transportation plan would allow for significant improvements to roads, bridges, and transit systems statewide. Right now, more than half of Minnesota’s roads are more than 50 years old, and 40 percent of the state’s bridges are more than 40 years old. In just the next three years alone, one in five Minnesota roads will pass their useful life. And in the next ten years, nearly 40 percent of our roads will be past their useful life.

With new funding proposed by Governor Dayton, the state can make needed repairs and new investments in our transportation and transit systems – ensuring that Minnesotans are driving on safe, reliable roads and bridges, and have better access to a variety of low-cost transit options. Those improvements would include:

Better Roads and Bridges. The Governor’s plan would repair or replace 2,200 miles of state roads. It would repair or replace 330 bridges statewide. Forty percent of the new revenues raised in the Governor’s proposal would be directed to cities, counties, and townships; giving local leaders the resources and flexibility to repair and replace local roads and bridges statewide.

Better Transit Across Minnesota. The Governor’s plan would fund 20 new transitways, increase metro area bus service by 27 percent, increase Metro Area transit ridership by an estimated 80 percent, meet 90 percent of all transit needs in Greater Minnesota, and increase transit service in Greater Minnesota by nearly 500,000 hours of service each year.

More Corridors of Commerce. The Governor’s plan would provide an additional $1.6 billion for the Corridors of Commerce initiative, making targeted investments in key freight routes that are important for businesses’ expansions and economic development.

“By 2040, Minnesota’s population is expected to grow by over 1 million people; 800,000 of them will live in the Twin Cities Metro Area,” said Metropolitan Council Chair Adam Duininck. “For the future livability of our region, and for the competitive benefit of our entire state’s economy, we need to invest today in expanding and improving our transit systems. The future of our state, and our ability to leverage the federal funding needed to build a modern transit system, depends on the wise and necessary investments we make today.”

Governor Dayton’s Plan: How it Works
The Governor’s transportation plan would bridge the $6 billion state highway transportation funding gap over the next ten years by raising new dedicated revenues for roads and bridges. It would also increase revenues for transit.

New funding for road and bridge construction would be provided by a 6.5 percent gross receipts tax on gasoline, raising the current 1.25 percent base tax on vehicle registration fees to 1.5 percent, and raising car registration fees by $10. The Governor’s plan would also require MnDOT to generate efficiencies of 15 percent from all new revenues, allowing the Department to do $6 billion of work for $5.38 billion in new funding.

The chart below describes how new revenues would be used to address Minnesota’s transportation needs.

Road and Bridge Funding Over 10 years

State Funding (Trunk Highway) – $5.38 billion
$3.38 billion in new revenue
$2 billion in trunk highway bondsSource : Gross Receipts Tax and Registration Fee
County, City, & Township Funding – $2.356  billion
Direct funding to Counties – $1.58 billion
Direct funding to Cities – $490 million
MNDOT funding for Counties and Cities – $153 million
Townships – $133 millionSource : Gross Receipts Tax and Registration Fees

Transit Funding Over 10 years

Twin Cities Metro Area – $ 2.8 billion
Source : ½ cent sales tax increase in 7-county Metro
Greater Minnesota Transit – $120 million
Source : General Fund

Bike and Pedestrian Funding Over 10 years

Bike and Pedestrian Infrastructure/Safe Routes to Schools – $ 75 million
Sources : General Fund and ½ cent sales tax increase in 7-county Metro

*Job creation estimates for road and bridge improvements are calculated using a Federal Highway Administration fomula of 9,500 construction jobs and 4,300 construction support jobs created by each $1 billion in transportation investments. Job creation estimates for transit improvements are calculated based on the Metropolitan Council’s experience in building the Green Line (Central Corridor) LRT project.

Additional Information:

FACT SHEET: Governor Dayton’s Transportation Plan
FACT SHEET: Investing in Roads, Bridges, and Transit
SNAPSHOT: Investing in Roads and Bridges
MAPS: Transportation Projects

President Obama keeps economic ball in play, looking for a strong fourth quarter

By Ken Martin, chairman, Minnesota DFL

220px-President_Barack_ObamaShortly before President Barack Obama’s State of the Union address, he was quoted as saying, “My presidency in entering the fourth quarter. Interesting stuff happens in the fourth quarter.”

Sports fans of all stripes can remember “the big game” where their team came from behind and made a stunning recovery to win the game. If you look at the U.S. economy and the President’s performance, it’s easy to see an analogy.

President Obama took office during the worst economic crisis since the Great Recession. The U.S. was losing 70,000 jobs a month and we were in the worst 6-month period for the price of goods and services in 60 years.

President Obama and his team were quick to draw up new plays and less than a month after the President took office, he signed the “American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.”

Now as President Obama enters the fourth quarter of his presidency, the unemployment rate is at 5.6 percent (the lowest in six years), the U.S. has the fastest economic growth in more than a decade, we have the fourth-longest bull market since World War II, and 11.2 million jobs have been created over 58 straight months of job growth (with 2014 the best year for job growth since 1999). Read More