The legislature is off for the Easter/Passover Break this week. The time away from St. Paul allowed me to visit with many of the constituents in Morrison and Todd County. I am also looking forward to spending time at Holy Thursday, Good Friday, and the Easter Vigil Services.
This is one of my favorite times of the year with family and my faith. I wish all of you well as you celebrate this week with your family and that you are able to worship meaningfully in the manner you choose. Being able to exercise your liberty of faith is so fundamental and so important.
On Tuesday the legislature will return from Easter break to work on finalizing the state budget. There is a lot of information floating around regarding the budget and what priorities are in place. Here are a couple of thoughts I'd like to share and for you to provide feedback.
1. Our State budget needs to be sustainable.
No matter whether our priorities are long-term care, education, roads and bridges, or social services, if we don't put together a sustainable budgets, we risk our state's long-term economic sustainability. Governor Dayton's proposed budget would mean an increase in the state budget by over 25% in the last 5 1/2 years, compared to only an average 12% household income growth.
2. Rural growth must come from economic activity.
Long-term growth must come from increased business activity and entrepreneurship. If our rural communities and schools wish to survive, we need a strong business sector that is expanding, hiring, and producing robust wages. When our businesses succeed and growth, they put money into the pockets of families who in turn buy groceries and send their kids to school. Because the government takes money from families through taxation, we cannot short-circuit our business growth.
3. Targeted Preschool offers the best return.
Universal preschool is expensive and our schools do not have the facilities nor staff to take on universal preschool. Furthermore, a large portion of our population already prepare their children for school, and have the means to do so. However, we must focus our preschool efforts on the families who are not fortunate and need assistance. Targeted preschool scholarships give families who are disadvantaged opportunity to succeed and will help close the achievement gap.
4. Long-term transportation can be achieved by prioritizing our budget.
General agreement is that we need about 6 billion over 10 years to fund our transportation needs. Rep. Tim Kelly and the transportation team have put together a plan that prioritizes surplus money, dedicates tax revenue, as well as bonding to solve the problem. There is no gas tax included in our proposal. I applaud and support this plan.
I hope you all have an enjoyable Easter/Passover break.
Keep the faith!