The 2011 legislative session has adjourned and we put in long, hard hours to pass a balanced budget, new government efficiencies and education reform.
The governor approved our plan for creating alternative licensing pathways for teachers. We also passed a new performance-based evaluation system for teachers and principals and scholarships to help low-income students get out of low-performing schools.
We fixed the Green Acres agricultural land program after some ill-advised changes made back in 2008 created serious property tax problems for landowners in Greater Minnesota. On another tax note, the House passed legislation to reduce the tax rates for virtually all Minnesotans. And, on the local government aid front, our legislation retains aid for our cities and counties throughout District 8B.
Much of what we accomplished remained in the governor’s hands the clock struck midnight Monday, signaling the end of session. It is disappointing he vetoed nine of our budget bills, setting up a special session we did not need. I am proud we passed a budget which erases our $5 billion shortfall without raising taxes. We began with $31 billion in state spending. The latest revenue projection shows we will have an additional $3 billion in revenue during the upcoming two-year budget cycle and the Legislature agreed to spend the new revenue for a total budget of $34 billion.
But Gov. Dayton insists on a $36 billion budget and proposes tax increases to help cover the additional $2 billion in government spending.
I continue to say the extra $3 billion should be enough for our state to fund its priorities. I urge the governor to approve the new reform measures we sent him. Without these key structural changes, our budget path will remain unsustainable and we likely will find ourselves facing another shortfall soon.
We passed our budget bills through the House for the first time at record pace this session, allowing for more time to negotiate any sticking points. But the governor and his staff were absent from the budget table through most of the process, making it all the more difficult to put a solution in place.
I appreciate all the input I have received throughout the session and I look forward to continued correspondence throughout a potential special session and beyond. It is a true privilege to serve as your state Rep. and I encourage you to remain in contact with me.