Monthly Archives

May 2008

End of Session

By | Economy, Education, Environment, Health Care, Kevin Dahle MN Senate District 20, Scott County, Transportation | No Comments

The 2008 Legislature solved the $935 million budge shortfall using a combination of $355 million in spending cuts, $100 million in corporate tax changes, and $550 million from the state’s Rainy Day Fund. A brief overview of the session:

  • The Education Bill provides an additional $51 per student in one-time aid to school districts.  The bill also allows districts to transfer up to $51 per student from their capital operating funds to help districts put more money into classrooms.
  • The Transportation package will invest $6.6 billion in new resources into our state’s infrastructure over the next 10 years.
  • The Legislature, with an overwhelming bipartisan majority in both House and Senate, passed a $925 million bonding bill, which will create thousands of jobs.  Local projects include money for the Mills Town Trail, the Faribault Prison expansion, and the Scott County Regional Training facility.
  • After a year’s worth of work and bipartisan compromise, the Legislature passed significant health care reform that will result in reduced costs and increased access.
  • Historic legislation that will give Minnesotans the choice to invest invest in the things they love most about  their state:  lakes and rivers, outdoor resources, and cultural amenities. A constitutional amendment will be on the ballot this fall that will dedicate and additional 3/8 of 1% of state sales tax revenue in those unique qualities that characterize Minnesota’s way of life.
  • A $24 million compensation for the survivors of the I-35W Bridge collapse.
  • Homeowners will see property tax relief under the 2008 tax bill.  This includes a plan that would prevent local levies from rising more than 3.9% a year, and investments of $60 million in Local Government Aid which will go to cities and counties to cushion the effect of a levy limit.

This provides a brief summary of the 2008 legislative session.  Other important work was done in the areas of agriculture, commerce and consumer protection, pensions, energy and the environment, higher education, veterans and military affairs,  business and economic development.  I will be weighing in on some of the specifics of many of these bills as we head into summer.

Progress of the State

By | Kevin Dahle MN Senate District 20 | No Comments

There was a lot of waiting well into  the wee hours of Sunday morning.  So what do members of the House and Senate do at 2:40am on the day before adjournment during a recess?  About 30 legislators, Republicans and Democrats, headed onward and upward.  With the Sergeant of Arms and Capitol Security’s blessing, we slipped through the door that leads to the balcony next to the Golden Horses, also known as the Quadriga. They barely stirred as we slipped by them. What a beautiful sight, standing atop the capitol overlooking the city of St. Paul.  Wanna go higher?  We headed up an even narrower spiral staircase inside the massive dome to the smaller balcony near the ball at the top of the dome. As we look west, University Avenue lights the way to the Minneapolis skyline.  John Ireland Boulevard illuminates a path to the Cathedral to our left.  It is eerily quiet at this late hour.  After about 15 minutes of fresh air with a breathtaking view, we descend.  Into the Senate chamber.  It’s time to vote on the Health Care Reform Bill.

 

Meanwhile we process a few other bills while the House and Senate leadership continue to work out a budget deal.  The Quadriga is better known as Progress of the State.  At 4am that progress is a little slower than we’d like.  But progress will come, as we set our sights on Sunday then Monday…the final day of the session.

Deadline

By | Kevin Dahle MN Senate District 20 | No Comments

This past week has been “hurry up and wait” for the members of the Minnesota Senate.  Several weeks ago we debated and passed a finance and tax bill that addresses the $935 million budget shortfall the state is experiencing.  We are now waiting for the Governor and House and Senate leadership to find a compromise with the provisions of those bills that the Senate has already passed and the House is waiting to approve.  The legislature and the Governor are close to finalizing that deal.  There are some differences related to specific cuts and there has been a lot of discussion about the Governor’s desire to place limits on local government’s ability to set levies.   The Senate finance bill is set to provide over $115 million to local governments in the form of Local Government Aid which the Governor opposes.

 

In the meantime, over the past few weeks, the House and Senate have passed a minimum wage bill (vetoed), a teacher statewide health insurance bill, an education finance bill, and a few other items awaiting action by the Governor.  Will we complete our business by the constitutionally mandated deadline on May 19?  We are optimistic.  We will clear our Saturday and Sunday schedule if need be.  We have accomplished a lot this session and it would be shame to come this far and not find that “global agreement” when it is within our reach. 

Sesquicentennial

By | Kevin Dahle MN Senate District 20, Le Sueur County, Rice County, Scott County, Sibley County | No Comments


Last Wednesday, I attended a reception welcoming the Declaration of Independence to the Minnesota History Center. The document, known as the Dunlap Broadside (named after the printer) is one of 25 original copies known to exist. As a Civics teacher, I was excited to view such an important decree. Imagine how the colonists felt, as they cast their eyes on this revolutionary document. I am sure there were feelings of fear, wonder, and trepidation not knowing what a break from England might mean to them as individuals or as a country.

Nearly 80 years later, the state of Minnesota was carved out of the Iowa and Wisconsin territories. And this year we celebrate 150 years of statehood. I had the opportunity to welcome the Sesquicentennial Banner as it arrived in Northfield on Thursday night. On Saturday, I attended a 150th birthday party in LeCenter sponsored by the LeSueur County Historical Society. At both events, I shared with those in attendance the goals as established by the Minnesota Sesquicentennial Commission.

–Achieve broad participation of the people of Minnesota, visitors, local communities, institutions and organizations in activities across the state
–Raise awareness and educate Minnesotans about our past,
–Bring together a shared vision for the state’s future, by engaging Minnesotans in civic dialogue
–Leave a lasting legacy about the great state of Minnesota

As United States citizens and citizens of this great state, we would do well to heed these simple guidelines: community involvement with a healthy respect for our past working toward a better Minnesota for our future. Happy Birthday, Minnesota. Our forefathers would be proud.

Dan Patch Derailed

By | Kevin Dahle MN Senate District 20, Transportation | No Comments

TrainEarlier this session, I introduced a bill that eases the “gag order” on the Metropolitan Council and others from talking about or considering the Dan Patch commuter rail line from Northfield to Minneapolis. Consider the language in the statute that I was trying to amend:

The metropolitan council, the Commissioner of Transportation, or regional rail authority must not

take any action or spend any money for study or planning, or preliminary engineering, or construction for the Dan Patch commuter rail line. The council must remove all references other than for historical purposes, to the Dan Patch rail line from any future revisions to the council’s transportation development guide and the council’s regional transit master plan.

My bill would have amended that language and allowed this corridor to be part of the discussion for future rail projects. The bill sailed through committees and passed the House and Senate with little fanfare. Today I learned the Dan Patch provision was not included in the transportation policy final conference committee report, even though the Council approved of this provision in the conference committee last Thursday.  It was learned the Governor had serious concerns with the change to the prohibition and asked to have it removed, which the committee did.

It is certainly disappointing. Even a call to the Governor by Senator Claire Robling, my Republican colleague representing Prior Lake and Shakopee, could not change the fate of this bill. While the entire transportation policy bill may end up getting vetoed anyway, it is no solace to me and the citizens who would benefit from this type of transit. All options should be kept on the table. This discussion is not over.