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There was nothing new in Gov. Mark Dayton's first State of the State address. Much of it we heard on the campaign trail. But the overarching chord throughout the speech was that of the cooperation needed to put Minnesota back on the road to prosperity. The Democratic governor talked on the campaign trail of making education his top priority, reiterating it in his State of the State address. Only this time he underscored the fact that K-12 education funding has declined 14 percent during the Pawlenty years, when inflation is included.
Republicans, who lead both the Minnesota House and Senate, may have been overzealous in their attempt to trim government.
Last week Gov. Mark Dayton issued a unique proposal for a public works bonding bill -- setting $1 billion as the cap for bonding, and then leaving about half that amount to the Legislature for its own significant bonding proposals. The governor proposed $531 million in capital investment projects he deems most necessary to improve infrastructure.
The Minnesota Senate, in a bipartisan 40-23 vote on Thursday, approved a bill calling for a pathway for alternative teacher licensing. Opposed by Education Minnesota, the state's teacher union, the bill as we see it will improve public education, especially in hard-to-find categories in rural schools. The legislation is geared to help get mid-career professionals into the teaching profession quicker without having to go through all the hoops as would a traditional college student majoring in education.
On Tuesday a number of Bemidjians embarked to St. Paul by bus to lobby for local issues at the State Capitol. Was the trip worth it?
The Minnesota House passed its first budget bill on Thursday, slashing $1 billion from state spending. The Minnesota Senate is expected to pass its own $1 billion -cut bill this week, sending the issue to conference committee. But, as it stands, it most certainly will be vetoed by Gov. Mark Dayton, and rightly so. The state faces a $6.2 billion budget shortfall in the next biennium, and lawmakers need to work immediately on solving that problem.
Give President Barack Obama an A- for delivery but a C for message in his State of the Union address Tuesday night. The president tried to maintain the sensitive but firm man with a vision, as he did in Tucson, and to a large degree he succeeded. He made the most of the new bipartisan mood, exemplified by members of Congress sitting together without party separation. But the question is: For how long? The president labeled battling the federal deficit as a top priority, as well as "investment" for new jobs.
Hopefully a harbinger of positive work ahead, Gov. Mark Dayton on Monday issued an executive order to two state agencies to speed up permit requests from businesses at the same time the Republican-led Legislature is considering legislation to do the same thing. Under Executive Order 11-04, the state Department of Natural Resources and the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency are instructed to "move at the speed of commerce" by accelerating and simplifying their environmental review and permitting processes. It's also the same goal as H.F.
President Barack Obama will have the opportunity Tuesday evening to prove to the American public that the unusual bipartisanship of the recent lame duck session of Congress was no fluke. In giving the annual State of the Union Address, President Obama can lay out a course that first and foremost puts the economy first, and secondly on laying out an agenda that a bipartisan Congress can accomplish. The signs are good. An effort by some members of Congress, Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar among them, to have the membes sit mngled among themselves is a good start.
Faced with a $5 million budget shortfall, as Bemidji State's and Northwest Tech's part of a $6.2 billion state budget gap, BSU President Richard Hanson laid down some "tough love" measures Thursday to reach that anticipated goal. It's not all easily swallowed by all, nor should it be. His decisions will affect programs that students are taking, and the faculty that instruct them.