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Legislative News and Views - Rep. Joe McDonald (R)

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House makes more progress on budget bills

Friday, April 7, 2017

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Above, my grandfather, Kenneth F. McDonald, is pictured (front, right) with fellow soldiers when they were stationed in France during WWI. This week on the House floor, I recognized him and the 100-year anniversary since the U.S. entered the war. I am proud of my grandfather for his selfless efforts to support the Allies’ cause. One of his jobs was to lead a team of horses which transported canons to the battlefield.

Dear Neighbor,

The House has continued to conduct votes on several omnibus finance bills in recent days, with the goal of having provided approval for all 11 of them by the end of this week.

Last time I broke down the details of a bill the House passed to provide $1.35 billion in tax relief. This time, let’s take a closer look at packages that have been approved pertaining to transportation and K-12 education.

The House transportation bill would put $6 billion over the next 10 years toward our state’s transportation needs without raising taxes. It uses existing taxes and a portion of the $1.6 billion budget surplus to provide more funding for our roads and bridges.

The proposal creates a new fund of existing tax revenue streams called the Transportation Priorities Fund. This new fund uses current, transportation-related state tax revenues – such as those we already pay when purchasing auto parts – to invest $450 million in new dollars for roads and bridges.

The House transportation proposal also would fund:

  • $25 million for the Small Cities Road Assistance program
  • $300 million for Corridors of Commerce program
  • $35 million for rail grade crossings
  • Funding to repair or replace all 97 bridges on MnDOT's local bridge priority list

As for K-12, the House budget plan increases funding for education by $1.1 billion over the previous budget level. That represents a 6.5-percent increase over the last biennium to the next when you consider all K-12 spending (not just the per-pupil formula). The House package also targets more than $300 million for proven early learning programs including scholarships and school readiness aid, and works to attract and keep the best teachers in the classroom.

Other highlights of the K-12 bill include:

  • $22 million for a new, targeted academic achievement initiative that funds before school, afterschool and summer programs to help low-income students who are falling behind their grade-level peers
  • $40 million for enhanced school readiness aid that gives 74 school districts with voluntary pre-k more flexibility to either continue the program or fund other early education needs
  • Continues Republican-led efforts to strengthen teacher recruitment and retention, especially in areas with teacher shortages
  • Repeals the “last in, first out” default in state statute to allow schools and local bargaining units to negotiate mutually beneficial staff retention decisions that better serve students, teachers and schools
  • $2.3 million to implement a new Professional Educator License and Standards Board to replace the troubled Board of Teaching and bring clarity and consistency to our teacher licensure policies

Finally, the House approved a bill which provides $2.3 billion to support public safety for the next two years. It includes new money for local law enforcement agencies to help them pay for officers’ training costs in helping officers manage citizens’ mental-health crisis situations. The plan also improves our judicial system, and allows the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension to replace an outdated predatory offender registry.

Another provision in the bill increases penalties against those who choose to participate in illegal protests that put people’s lives at risk. One thing I want to make clear is this bill does not make anything illegal that isn’t already illegal today. It simply increases the punishment for activities that already are illegal, such as walking on and blocking a freeway.

Stay tuned for more from the House as things progress.



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