Page 3 of 41234

2009 Session Preview

Thursday, January 1st, 2009

Addressing the budget deficit will be the main issue for 2009, but what are some of the other areas that the Minnesota Senate will be focusing on as the session gets under way January 6?
• Rebuilding Minnesota’s economy and protecting workers impacted by the recession
• Tax Reform and tax fairness
• Adopting Mn/DOT Bridge Reforms
• Review the costs and benefits of No Fault Auto Insurance
• Green JOBZ program
• Growing Minnesota’s Bioscience industry
• Addressing Foreclosures/Neighborhood Stabilization Programs
• Meeting Long term care challenges
• Allocation of funds from Clean Water, Land, and Legacy Amendment
• GRAD Test/Testing Reform/ Stabilize education funding
• Implement Minnesota Climate Change Advisory Group recommendations/Renewable Energy Standards
• Stranger Oriented Life Insurance
• Farmer-Lender Mediation Act Authorization extension
• Small Bonding bill
• College Affordability/College Readiness and Retention
• Juvenile Justice Initiatives/Data Privacy Issues
• Elections Law
• Role of Nuclear Energy in Minnesota’s energy portfolio/Greenhouse Gas reductions
• Health Care Reform/Pharmaceutical Reform/Children’s health insurance
• Minimum Wage/Consumer cost savings measures
• Pensions
• Local Government Aid reform
While this list is a partial glimpse at the range and scope of issues and topics that may be discussed this session, it is by no means an exclusive list. I am sure to be writing about the specifics of these and other policy issues as we begin our work next week.

Looking Ahead

Wednesday, December 17th, 2008

 Looking AheadSolving the near and long-term state budget deficits will be the primary focus of the 2009 Legislative session.  State economists warn this is the longest recession since WWII and it likely will take longer for the state to emerge successfully than in past recessions.  Therefore, the legislature will be focused on long-term, fiscally responsible policies that set up the state for future success.  That will require a combination of government reforms, reasonable spending reductions, and a commitment to preserve the things that have made Minnesota a national leader in the past.

The state’s economists attribute the steep decline to overall economic performance and the current recession, which began in December 2007.  Minnesota lost more than 42,000 jobs from October 2007 to October 2008, and the state is expected to lose as many as 77,000 jobs in 2009.  The key to emerging from the recession will be job creating policies that will attract new economic activity to Minnesota.  Growing opportunities and jobs in the biosciences, renewable energy, and rural economic development should be a high priority.  Improving the business climate and targeted investments toward job creation, such as “angel” tax credits or support for local economic development programs like the MN Investment fund can help us reach some of those goals.

Obviously, the state will need to take a close look at existing program, agencies, and expenditures, and review them using the following 3 questions:

1.  Is this expenditure an appropriate governmental purpose authorized by our laws and Constitution?

2. Is this expenditure necessary, especially in difficult economic times?

3.  Is this expenditure actually producing the intended result, or is there a more efficient and economical way to accomplish this legitimate state purpose?

We need to look at ways to give relief to local governments and school districts.  This means taking a hard look at existing mandates and allowing those local units of government more autonomy in moving existing resources to meet existing and essential needs.  We need to collaborate and coordinate for more efficient public services in areas of transportation, buying power, combined billing, delivery of service, and administration.

This will be a difficult session, but it is imperative that the Senate, House, Governor, Republicans, and Democrats all get on the same page to come up with solutions that will help lead Minnesota out of this recession.  I will continue to lay out some ideas as to how we can do that in the next several weeks leading up to the January 6 session. Please feel to contact me with your ideas as well.

Mill Towns Trail

Thursday, September 11th, 2008

The Friends of the Mill Towns Trail are excited about projects that may come to fruition by this time next year. I attended a meeting last night in Dundas with some of the Trails faithful describing what’s next for the trail.

There are 3 projects on the horizon. A bridge will be erected across the Cannon River in Northfield near Walgreen’s connecting to an underpass of Hwy 3. Some additional trail will be built west of Cannon Falls and another bridge will be built in Faribault which will include underpass access for both Hwys. 21 and Hwy 3 north of town. This is exciting stuff for trail enthusiasts. They have worked tirelessly to raise money to complete a trail providing the missing link between Mankato and Red Wing.

mapmilltowns 175x121 Mill Towns TrailMoney has come from several sources. The Northfield Bike tour this past weekend, as part of the Defeat of Jesse James Day celebration, netted nearly $16,000, two thirds of which will go to the Mill Towns trail.   Over 1300 riders took part.  Hats off to the Northfield Rotary club for organizing the event and for their generous donations over the years to the trail group. Local initiatives and cooperation are very effective in leveraging federal dollars and grant money. The trail received a federal grant several years ago. State money from the capital bonding bill brought in about $650,000 from the last session. And the DNR, an advocate for completion of the trail, has recently come through with lottery money for the trail.

There is still much to be done. Accessing right of ways, purchasing abandoned rail, completing trail heads and facilities, and maintaining existing trail is costly and involves long term commitment. The economic and recreational benefits for towns like Dundas and Northfield are worth the effort. We should all get behind these types of partnerships.

For more info about the trail: http://www.milltownstrail.org/

School Land Trust

Monday, August 4th, 2008

trees School Land TrustOver 150 years ago, Minnesota received several land grants from the federal government to be held in trust for specific purposes, such as schools. On Wednesday of last week, I attended a joint hearing of the Environment, Energy, Natural Resources and the E-12 Education Budget committee regarding Minnesota’s school trust lands.

Today the state holds about 2.5 million acres of school trust land and about 1 million acres of land with mineral rights. In the past, money generated from these lands has been allocated to school districts, with a general fund subtraction. In other words, if a school district receives $1 from the land trust it would lose $1 from their general fund. In 2008, the legislature permanently eliminated that subtraction. This amounted to additional revenue per pupil. Belle Plaine received $34.2 per pupil unit, Northfield $32.5, and Cleveland received $30.3. Other senate district 25 school districts fell somewhere between that 30 and 35 dollar increase.

Although the future of mineral mining in Minnesota is uncertain, the potential is apparent. For example, three mineral deposits in the Duluth area alone contain resources that could generate royalties of $1.4 billion at today’s metal prices if mined over a period of 20-25 years. There is a dramatic growth in world demand for metals, spurred mostly by growth in Asia and emerging markets.

In state statute: The goal of the Permanent school fund is to secure long term economic returns consistent with Minnesota constitutional fiduciary responsibilities, with sound natural resource conservation management principles.

This committee and others will continue to look for ways to maximize this potential source of income. We will continue to look for ways to provide badly needed revenue and relief for school district budgets across the state of Minnesota. I am excited about the possibilities.

End of Session

Tuesday, May 27th, 2008

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.

Vote Kevin Dahle 2012