Last Friday, I had the privilege to tour St. Francis Catholic School in Buffalo. One of my favorite parts about my job is the opportunity to go to schools in the district and speak with students about civic engagement and government. As I spoke to sixth, seventh, and eighth grade classes at St. Francis, I was impressed with the questions and comments they had relating to transportation, energy mandates, and taxation. Meeting with these students gives me great hope for our state and county’s future leadership. Now, if only we can pass on to them a state and country that’s financially stable, we’ll be in terrific shape.
It’s going to get pretty busy here at the legislature in the coming days. Over the past several days, the House DFL leadership has released several of their omnibus bills including their K-12 education omnibus bill. This proposal would spend $15.7 billion over the next biennium. As the mother of two kids who have gone through the Buffalo School District, I believe funding our children’s education is a top priority. Unfortunately, I believe this proposal spends too much money on new offices and centers instead of putting money in the classroom on student learning. For example, the bill proposes to spend $4.5 million for “regional centers of excellence” offices, $1 million for a “School Climate Center” office, and an $884,000 increase in the Minnesota Department of Education budget. I’m hopeful we can work in a bipartisan way to focus on spending money on our students and academic achievement over more bureaucracy.
Another bill put forward by House Democrats last week was the $858 million bonding bill. Generally, large bonding bills are done in even-numbered year because the odd-numbered years are reserved for passing a budget for the state for the next biennium. I’m hesitant to support a bonding bill until a budget is complete. Furthermore, I believe any bonding bill should focus on critical infrastructure needs like making needed repairs to roads and bridges and not pet project for individual lawmakers.
The House Transportation Finance Committee (on which I serve) passed out an omnibus transportation bill last week. I was happy to see that the bill does not impose any new tax increases and focuses funding on roads, bridges, and infrastructure. While it’s not a perfect bill, I’m hoping we can remove the provision relating to the wheelage fee as well as the portion of the bill that eliminates voter approval as a requirement for counties to impose a sales tax.
In the Judiciary Committee, we passed out an omnibus financing package. I wanted to vote yes to support more funding for the courts, but I am uncomfortable with fee increases that the bill contains.
This week, the House will be in session every day including Saturday. I continue to oppose legislation that will raise taxes on hard-working Minnesotans. We simply do not need to raise taxes. If you look at the general revenue in February and March, the state took in more than forecast by $145.4 million. This is proof positive that the policies and budget that the Republican-led legislature put forward in 2011-2012 worked. I also view it as evidence that we do not need to be taking any more money out of the pockets of Minnesotans.
As the legislative session moves forward, I am interested in your feedback. Please feel free to contact me by e-mail at Rep.Marion.ONeill@House.MN or contact my office at 651-296-5063. You can also send me mail to my office address: 229 State Office Building, 100 Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd., St. Paul, MN 55155. Please feel free to share this e-mail with your family, friends, and neighbors so they can sign up and stay in touch.