Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton delivered his annual State of the State address Thursday night before a joint session of the Legislature in the chamber of the House of Representatives.
Full text: 2015 State of the State address
"During the remaining six weeks of this legislative session, we will face our own moments of truth: Will we do what is easy, safe, and popular; or will we risk our political lives to preserve this great state for future generations?" Dayton asked
Dayton rolled out his plan to pay for construction projects around the state earlier this week. The governor wants to spend $842 million on everything from water projects to buildings at the University of Minnesota and says his bonding plan would create nearly 24,000 jobs across the state.
"What we have been doing is working. Minnesota is working. Our unemployment rate is an unusually low 3.7 percent. In fact, according to Pew Trust's research, Minnesota is the only state in the nation, whose employment rate for 25-54 year-olds in 2014 exceeded its pre-recession level in 2007," he said.Republicans argue it puts the state on another increased path for spending that is simply not their priority.
In the governor's eyes, the opportunity is all about lifting the lumber on a backlog of potential job sites and needed construction projects. The governor's total plan includes borrowing $842 million, and the debt service would cost $78 million in the current budget, but it would fund dozens of projects including:
$65 million for railroad safety improvements in Moorhead, Willmar, Prairie Island and Coon Rapids.
$20 million for additional repairs to the State Capitol
$18 million to replace old veterinary labs at the U of M, including a new animal isolation facility.
This clearly not a priority for House Republicans, partially because none of the construction projects have been vetted yet by lawmakers. However, historically there has been some kind of construction bill in 31 of the last 32 legislative sessions.
"Some people are telling us to "Just wait until next year" for my $842 million bonding bill. How can we tell the citizens and businesses in Worthington to "just wait another year" for a reliable supply of safe drinking water? Or tell people in Willmar to "wait another year" before rerouting rail cars with volatile fuels away from their city; or St. Cloud area residents to "wait another year" for public safety improvements to the nearby correctional facility?"
Dayton thanked state funding for allowing 99.6 percent of Minnesota's 5-year-olds to be enrolled in all-day kindergarten classes. It's offered in all but one of the state's 954 public elementary schools.
Dayton's supplemental budget plan released in March sets aside more money for targeted tax relief, nursing homes, welfare grants, preschool programs and college aid. He proposed Thursday to continue a two-year tuition freeze at the University of Minnesota and Minnesota State Colleges and Universities.
Dayton said general fund dollars to pay for transportation would be better suited for education and health.
"Reallocating General Fund dollars to pay for essential transportation improvements will inevitably pit those needs against educating our children; caring properly for our elderly; enhancing our natural resources; fulfilling the important promises of the Working Parents Act; and providing quality, affordable health care for all our citizens. People should not be pitted against projects. Both are too important."