With less than a month left in the 2017 legislative session (which ends on May 22), the House is spending less time debating bills in committee and on the House floor, to allow time for conference committees to meet and resolve differences between House and Senate budget bills.
Chat with Dave – Sunday, May 7
Thank you to the constituents who joined Sen. Cohen, Rep. Murphy, and me for the Town Hall on April 17. Another chance to connect is coming up soon. The next "Chat with Dave" will be on Sunday, May 7, from 3:00pm to 4:30pm, at the Highland Park Library, 1974 Ford Parkway. Please join us for an informal conversation with neighbors in the final weeks of the session.
Conference Committees & Budget Bills
The Republican majorities in the House and Senate have passed their "omnibus" budget bills, which fund state agencies. "Conference committees" are now meeting to resolve the differences between these bills, before they are returned to each chamber and then presented to the Governor. To learn which members are serving on the conference committees and follow their progress, click here. The nonpartisan House Public Information Office has also assembled a rundown of the bills and their path forward, which you can read about here.
The budget bills raise many concerns - the Dayton administration has detailed more than 150 pages' worth - but overall, in my view, they set the wrong priorities for our state, underfunding investments in our future like education, transportation, and our environment in favor of tax cuts that disproportionately favor wealthy, out-of-state interests.
Here is my take on a few of the House budget bills; more to come in a future message.
One of the most disappointing budget bills is the one for E-12 Education. Under this bill, the funding for Minnesota's public schools would lag once again behind the rate of inflation and per-pupil growth - as it has for years now. This would result in yet another year of teacher lay-offs, larger class sizes, and fewer resources for students. The bill would also eliminate funding for the voluntary pre-K programs - funding that is already being used by districts around the state. All of this particularly unconscionable at a time of budget surplus.
The Transportation bill does not include sustainable, long-term funding for roads, bridges, and transit, and pits regions of Minnesota against one another instead of providing a transportation vision to benefit the whole state. The bill would also result in massive cuts to transit, including a 40% reduction in regular bus route service and higher fares. You can see some of my remarks on the bill from the House floor here. (And apologies for talking so quickly! I'm working on it.):
Environment & Natural Resources
With my focus on early-childhood issues, I believe that we have an obligation to preserve our state's natural resources for future generations. The Environment & Natural Resources bill goes the opposite direction. It rolls back environmental protections and cuts funding that protects these resources, endangering Minnesota’s lands, waters, air, and wildlife.
The cuts and underfunding in other budget bills are driven by the Tax bill. This bill includes a $161 million cut in the estate tax - which affects only a few of the wealthiest Minnesotans per district per year - and a large cut in the statewide business property tax, which would disproportionately benefit out-of-state corporate owners of skyscrapers and big-box retail stores.
With so much frustration at the Capitol, it's important that we continue to organize on behalf of causes that we care about. Many thanks to the more than 200(!) people who attended the first-ever Advocacy Fair several weeks ago now. 25 nonprofit advocacy organizations, multiple legislators, and Congresswoman Betty McCollum all joined us. If you're still looking for a referral to an organization advocating on behalf of a cause that you care about, please contact my office. #EverybodyIn.
Thank you for the honor of serving our community,
State Representative, District 64B
321 State Office Building
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