We're now more than halfway through the legislative session, which is constitutionally mandated to end on May 23. The going has been very slow so far. The House majority has devoted floor sessions to such topics as fireworks and fantasy sports, with very little time dedicated to transportation, taxes, infrastructure, and the other major issues which will affect our future as a state.
House GOP Supplemental Budget Targets
"Budget targets" determine how much money will be spent in any given area of the budget. Far more than rhetoric, the budget targets that a majority party sets indicate its true priorities and values. The House Republican majority recently released its supplemental budget targets for the $900 million surplus. The targets include no investments in early learning & development, K-12 education, or higher education, and cuts in many other areas. Instead, the majority would dedicate the entire surplus to unspecified tax giveaways and one-time transportation funding.
As Governor Dayton put it: “I await [House Republicans'] details on which tax beneficiaries they consider more important than the needs of our children and college students. I also keep waiting for their reliably funded, long-term solution to our state’s deteriorating highways, roads, and bridges and inadequate public transit systems.”
Not only is the majority's approach poor public policy, it's also a recipe for gridlock, as it is very different than the plans proposed by Governor Dayton and Senate Democrats. It will be difficult for our state to make progress this session without compromise.
Majority Transportation Plan Would "Starve Out" Other Spending
Last year I pointed out that the Republican majority's transportation plan would shortchange the "general fund," which goes to education, health care, and other important needs. Speaker Daudt recently confirmed this notion, with some troubling words. He told a Tea Party audience at an event a few weeks ago that the majority's transportation plan would "start to starve out the general fund, so it would remove money currently going in to the general fund, which is a really good thing." You can listen to audio of his comments here.
The majority's transportation plan, which relies on one-time spending and shifts, is a shell game that could have serious long-term consequences for our schools and our state budget. We need a real, long-term, transportation plan that adequately funds roads, bridges, and transit.
Hearing on Prenatal-Care Bills
One bright spot: Last week the House Health & Human Services Finance Committee heard my bills on prenatal-care disparities (the only DFL-sponsored bills on the agenda that day!). Check out the press coverage here and here. Neither bill is currently included in committee funding proposals, but I'm hopeful that funding may be found during end-of-session negotiations.
I'll continue to keep you posted during the final month of the session. Please keep in touch.
State Representative, District 64B
321 State Office Building