Wednesday, February 06, 2013

State of the State.  When the State of the State address comes after the budget has been released (and this is one of the only times in my memory--of course, I could be wrong--when the SOTS has been delivered in this time frame.  In his address, the Governor didn't reveal much of anything new outside of support for legislation that would allow gay marriage in Minnesota.  He has long been a proponent of gay marriage, but his comments tonight seemed to indicate that he would like legislation passed this session.

As far as the budget landscape goes, the Governor was very firm in his comments that the tax cuts enacted in the late-1990s and the early-2000s have blunted progress toward a better Minnesota.  Summing it up pretty succinctly, he said (and I paraphrase) that we can't "cut our way to greatness."  He didn't say anything about the state takeover of the general education levy contributing to the problem, but he did point out that Minnesota's state spending per $1,000 of income for E-12 education now ranks 33rd in the nation and is a significant departure from Minnesota's tradition of support for public education.

In his comments, the Governor stressed that he is pursuing a path of fiscal responsibility by both proposing tax increases and spending reductions.  It is important to remember that the state is facing a $1.1 billion revenue hole for the coming biennium and that spending cuts (most likely to come in the form of reductions in the growth of the base and not reductions in the base in real terms) will have to be part of the equation.  The other thing to remember is that the Governor is proposing a $1.4 billion property tax rebate program and that  drives the total revenue need up to $2.5 billion.  Add in roughly another billion in new expenditures (or investments) and the number rounds out to about the $3.5 billion in tax increases the Governor is proposing. He didn't lay things out at this level of detail this evening, but it did provide a broad outline of where he proposes to go.  It was hard to tell from the video feed, but it didn't look like a lot of Republicans were applauding.

The Day at the Capitol.  The State of the State was the highlight of the day, but it was also the annual STARS day sponsored by the Minnesota Association of Alternative Programs.  Students and teachers from alternative programs and area learning centers throughout the state came to the Capitol to lobby legislators.  Teachers, students, and administrators testified before the House Education Finance Committee and Representative Linda Slocum's HF 165--a bill that would increase funding for approved recovery programs (area learning centers/alternative programs that deal with students who are in recovery from drug and alcohol abuse)--was then heard by the committee.  As per usual, it was an interesting day watching these students interface with their legislators and describe their experiences.

Faust to Carry House Companion to SF 177.  Representative Tim Faust (DFL-Mora) has agreed to be the House author for SF 177 (Skoe-DFL-Clearbrook).  Representative Faust and I are rounding up authors (House bills can have 34 co-authors in addition to the chief author) and if we are successful, the bill will probably be introduced on Thursday, February 14.  What a great valentine that would be for low property wealth school districts.

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