Hello from the State Capitol,
With only days remaining in the 2023 legislative session, House and Senate Democrats are trying to reach compromises on proposals that will fund state government for the next two years.
You’ll recall that Democrats are in total control of state government, and decided weeks ago that they were going to increases state spending from $52 billion to $70 billion. House Democrats would not only eliminate the $17.5 billion budget surplus in the process, but they also passed more than $9 billion in tax increases to boot.
A number of compromise reports returned to the House this week for a floor vote. The most controversial is the higher education agreement. Not only does the plan increase spending in this area by 18.5%, but it provides “free” college tuition for Minnesota students if their family has an adjusted gross income below $80,000.
Of course, the program is not free as Minnesota taxpayers are going to spend $216 million to provide this “free” ride to those who qualify. This bill wasn’t even debated in the House, and yet it’s going to become law.
What message does this send to parents who have set money aside for years in order to have something available when it’s time to send their kid to college? Or students who have taken out tens of thousands of dollars in loans over their college careers and have been paying those debts off for years?
In addition, the higher ed bill deletes workforce development scholarships which helps students who are studying in high demand fields, and provides “free” menstrual products to students by having them placed in both girls and boys restrooms. This “free” menstrual product program will cost taxpayers more than $2 million.
The higher education bill will become law as Governor Walz has already stated he will sign it after the Senate approves it.
Will a capital investment bill be approved this year? That is a question being asked to legislators lately as many local government leaders have projects that they are hoping will be inserted into a bonding bill if one moves forward. I continue working with both Cottage Grove and Hastings city leaders on their projects and am advocating for their inclusion.
I recently saw the latest plans for the Hastings Vermillion Street / Hwy 61 project. I think MnDOT is doing a good job of working with local constituents and business owners to try and find compromise in design and functionality.
Striking to me was the data: it currently takes about 5 minutes to get from one end of town to the other it you travel on Highway 61. If this massive project doesn’t happen, that travel time will increase 4 fold or more over the next decade, meaning it would take you over 20 minutes to commute from the bridge to the south end of town, which is something nobody wants. As planned, the Vermillion Street project would maintain a 5 minute travel time, and is scheduled to begin in the year 2027.
Have a good weekend,