Purple Caucus Works To Find Unity

By | Education, Transportation | No Comments

With the end of the 2016 legislative session only a few weeks away, the session is heating up. Supplemental budget proposals will be finalized soon, bills are leaving committees to be heard on the floor, and the process of negotiating an end to the session has begun in earnest.

While Republican and Democratic Party leaders can and will get into partisan battles during these negotiations, members of the Minnesota Senate’s Purple Caucus have been working hard to hammer out points of unity. As a representative of a very politically diverse district, I am proud to be a part of that work as a member of the caucus. The Purple Caucus includes both parties, with Senators Jeremy Miller (R-Winona) and Roger Reinert (DFL-Duluth) acting as co-chairs.

When I teach my students about American politics, I tell them that parties have important roles to play in our political system, but it’s important to keep in mind the larger goals of public service. A bipartisan caucus can be a great opportunity for members of opposing political parties to engage on issues they all care about.

Members of the Purple Caucus do just that, and in this case, our unifying factor is our pride in our state. (Senator Reinert may have named the caucus after joint military exercises involving blended “Purple Units,” but as a Vikings fan, I like to think it extends to our NFL team as well.) The Purple Caucus meets regularly to talk about positions we have in common, and have outlined four principles that we will speak up for as the session draws to a close.

First, Minnesotans expect the 2016 legislature to pass a Transportation Finance Bill, a Tax Bill, and a Bonding Bill. The transportation and tax bills are still pending from last year, when the session ended before either bill was passed. I believe that sustainable transportation funding is critical to our state’s economic development, and will save taxpayers money in the long run. A tax bill with carefully targeted middle-class and property tax relief will give some money back to Minnesotans, without busting the budget in future years.

The Purple Caucus also supports the passage of both a Bonding Bill and a Transportation Finance Bill, and that roads, bridges, and transit should not be funded through borrowing in the Bonding Bill. Bonding is an important tool that the state uses to upgrade, repair, or build new state infrastructure, and leaning on this borrowing to fund roads and bridges would crowd out needed investments in other areas. I am concerned that overly-politicizing the state’s bonding by including individual transportation projects would jeopardize their eventual completion and, furthermore, be bad for our long-term fiscal health.

Third, and perhaps most importantly, the Purple Caucus has called for increased transparency in the legislative process. The end of last year’s legislative session was disappointing to everyone, with closed-door meetings and negotiations often locking out not only the public, but even elected officials not part of their party leadership. We believe that all legislators and the public should be included in the final decision-making process.

The Purple Caucus also encourages like-minded members of the Minnesota House to join our efforts, prioritizing our common ground as we finish this session. We may not always be successful, and there are still major differences between our parties, but acknowledging and fighting for our shared goals will make our state a better place for everyone. The Purple Caucus adheres to the following principles, as developed by the Speak Your Peace Civility Project: pay attention; be inclusive; not gossip; show respect; be agreeable; apologize; give constructive criticism; and take responsibility.

A Transportation Plan for Greater Minnesota

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

As rural legislators, we recognize the great need for a robust transportation funding package for our communities. Roads and bridges are critical to the success of our economy, and the increasing demand is putting pressure on our aging network. We also know that projects like completing Highway 14 and expansion of Highway 19 will take years to finish – and shouldn’t be done a mile at a time.

It is well reported that Minnesota’s transportation needs have reached a critical point. Paying for the needed investment our transportation network needs will require significant resources. According to the Minnesota Department of Transportation, our shortfall over the next 20 years will reach nearly $16.3 billion. To succeed as a state, we must find a way to fill this gap in a sustainable and reliable way.

Thankfully, our colleagues in the Senate and the House recognize the great need for this investment. We have all heard from our constituents just how important a transportation bill is to the success of our townships, our towns and cities, our counties, and in every corner of Minnesota.

Unfortunately, that’s where our similarities seem to end. We are willing to look at all options on the table. However, we are unwilling to compromise on a plan for our transportation network that is worse for rural communities. By relying on local tax increases, one-time spending, and borrowing, the Republican plan does not provide the same level of support for those communities—our communities—that need it most.

Because our rural communities don’t have the same tax base as the suburbs and metro, rural Minnesota would get less with local tax increases that the House GOP relies upon. They do not provide any new funding for larger city local roads, and they do not provide enough investment for smaller cities. Without this new funding, our areas will have to rely on local sources of revenue like a wheelage or county sales tax – which would fall far short of what’s needed.

For example, the Republican plan gives minimal funding to small cities, enough to fill a few potholes at best. To raise more revenue, Rice or Waseca County could adopt a sales tax. However, the new revenue raised by the tax base in these counties cannot support the demands of their aging systems. Local sources of revenue are simply not enough to replace a stable statewide funding source.

Instead of providing consistent and dedicated funding for all parts of our state, the House would also rely on a significant amount of bonding. Transportation projects are often 5, 10, and 15-year projects that require long-term, dedicated funding. Planning projects cannot rely on the action of future legislatures. At best, we set a risky precedent of a bonding bill picking winners and losers for specific road projects; at worst, funding dries up for critical work.

In the DFL-led Senate, we have put forth a comprehensive plan that provides stable and dedicated funding for the entire state’s transportation network. This significant new influx of revenue will be spread across all 87 counties and hundreds of our towns and cities, ensuring our communities can get more funding to support local projects on Main Street.

A modest increase in the state’s gas tax can provide stable and significant new revenue for all of Minnesota’s counties, and for those towns and cities that need it most. The gas tax is constitutionally dedicated to paying for roads and bridges, and is the guarantee we need for long-term priorities.

The Senate transportation bill delivers a promise for our state’s transportation network – stable and consistent funding, spread to every community that needs it, with increased investments for rural communities that cannot support new road projects on their own.

Almost two dozen states, many with Republican governors and legislatures, have passed transportation bills through a combination of increasing their gas tax, general fund money, and other means. Let’s pass a responsible transportation bill that provides the stable and consistent funding our communities need.

Safe Roads Safe Communities

By | Transportation | No Comments

One by one they told their stories.  At least 4 Latino community members from Northfield shared their experiences with the nearly 300 people in attendance at St. Dominic’s Catholic Church in Northfield on a recent cold Sunday afternoon.  The event, “Safe Roads, Strong Communities” served as a Rice County “Faith Summit” sponsored by the inter-faith public policy organization ISAIAH whose long term goals are economic and racial equity for the entire state of Minnesota.

Senators Jensen and Representative Bly joined me on stage in support of a bill that would insure ensure all persons access to a driver’s license.  The bill authors, Senator Bobby Joe Champion (DFL – Minneapolis) and Representative Rod Hamilton (R – Mountain Lake) believe that Minnesota should adhere to the principal of “one state, one license” where all residents, regardless of immigration status, be eligible for a driver’s license.  Ten states, plus the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico currently offer driver’s licenses to all residents who apply.  This same bill passed in the Minnesota Senate in 2013 but stalled in the House.  We believe this bill should get a vote in both chambers in 2015.

The American Civil Liberties Union came out in support of expanding the expansion of the granting of licenses as a way of combating racial discrimination of drivers.  Many in our Hispanic communities end up driving illegally.  By establishing driver licenses for everyone, we also ask them to respond to safety guidelines on our streets and roads. In addition to creating safer roads, we can give our neighbors and our fellow community members’ access to jobs, or perhaps a better vehicles and of course better compliance in securing automobile insurance.  This is an important issue for our Latino communities who currently live with the constant fear of being arrested or fear deportation.  These folks do pay taxes and should be able to drive on our roads and bridges that are funded by tax dollars. In addition, the law actually helps raise revenue for the states who that have implemented it.

This Faith summit was a positive first step in raising awareness on an important issue in our communities.  It asked that we, in our role as legislators, publicly support the bill and continue our efforts to ensure its passage.  As a Senator, a driver education instructor, and as a concerned member of our larger community, I see this as sensible legislation that brings us together for the betterment of our towns, cities, and state.  Our Latino friends and neighbors are counting on us.

2012 Endorsements!

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

I am proud to be endorsed by the following organizations in my upcoming election for the Minnesota State Senate.  It is truly a great cross section of the many groups and supporters  in areas such as equality, education, working class Minnesotans, public services, safety, environment and natural resources, and health care.  I am anxious to work for all of my constituents as we take back the legislature and provide a voice for the people of this great State.

Sierra Club
Minnesota Farm Bureau
Minnesota Farmers Union PAC
Education Minnesota
MN Nurses Association
Clean Water Action
AFSCME Council 65
MPPOA - MN Police & Peace Officers  Association
Planned Parenthood
DFL Veterans Caucus
United Transportation Union
Care Providers of MN
Outfront Minnesota
MN Professional Firefighters
Project 515
Small Business Minnesota PAC
Take Action MN

Special Session passes Flood Relief Bill

By | Economy, Environment, Rice County, Transportation | No Comments

On September 22, 2010, heavy rain across a wide swath of Southern Minnesota caused widespread flooding and property damage across 32 counties.  Federal disaster assistance is expected to cover 75% of the losses, dependent on the damage estimates completed by officials from the Federal Emergency Management Agency, who were on site shortly after the disaster.

Residents and business leaders in the region have been quick to call for state assistance in getting this part of Minnesota on its feet again.  Most critical among the needs are road and bridge repair, school funding assistance to get displaced students back into class, and help for homeowners in need of shelter with winter fast approaching.

Also included in the legislation is language and funding to assist the North Central Minnesota community of Wadena, after a June 17, 2010 tornado caused extensive damage to a number of public facilities there, including the community center, school, and school district offices.

Officials from the House, Senate, Governor’s Office, and various state agencies have met over the course of the past week to craft a bill which provides some state assistance to help homeowners, business owners, and farmers recover, and assist communities and counties in repairing damaged infrastructure.

The bill includes $80.2 million in flood/tornado relief, and is targeted at specific agencies and areas, including public safety, transportation, natural resources, agriculture, employment and economic development, housing finance, education, and human services.  The money comes from the General Fund and some general obligation bonding dollars and trunk highway bonds.

Overall, the flood-relief sections of the bill contain $5 million from the Trunk Highway Fund, $32.5 million from the General Fund, $26 million from bond proceeds, and $10 million from the State Transportation Fund.  The $6.6 million in tornado relief comes in the form of $5.89 million from the General Fund and $750,000 from bond proceeds.

The Governor is expected to sign the bill later today.