By Denise Dittrich, MSBA Associate Director of Government Relations
Gov. Mark Dayton delivered his State of the State Address on Thursday — with five weeks left in the legislative session.
The general message was: “The State of the State is good.”
Dayton cited national experts to support his tax policies as they relate to a high quality of life. “Michigan Future” — a group led by some of that state’s top business and philanthropic leaders — issued a report, “State Policies Matter: How Minnesota’s Tax, Spending and Social Policies Help it Achieve the Best Economy Among Great Lakes States.”
The report concluded: “There is no question Minnesota is a high-tax state. … But it has largely invested that additional revenue in services and investments that matter in a knowledge-based economy. An educated workforce, efficient transportation systems, vibrant cities and metropolitan areas, and a secure safety net for those making the transition to a global economy, all matter in creating a prosperous state.”
More specific to education, Dayton highlighted his all-day, every day kindergarten initiative of 2013 that he signed into law after passing in the Legislature. This year, thanks to state funding, 99.6 percent of Minnesota’s five-year-olds are in all-day kindergarten classes, being offered in all but one of our state’s 954 public elementary school sites.
Dayton thanked the school boards, superintendents, principals, teachers and parents who responded so enthusiastically and overwhelmingly to this opportunity.
He went on to say, “I am frequently asked, ‘what are my top priorities in this session?’ My simple, straight answer is: ‘Everything.’” He went on to list several issues that have been talked about in the media. He affirmed, “I would not have proposed any of them, if I didn’t believe they were important to a better Minnesota.”
And then went on to clarify, “At the very top, however, are education and transportation. They are essential to our future.”
As we have previously reported, the governor has proposed spending an additional $694.6 million for E-12 education in fiscal years 16-17. This target is a stark contrast to the Senate (which has proposed a $361.5 million increase) and the House (which has proposed $156.7 million increase).
Dayton directly addressed a common response to his budget proposal, “More money for education? But we spend so much already.”
He firmly cited the most recent Census Bureau report on public education finances which ranks Minnesota 24th among the states in per-pupil expenditures for K-12 education. Dayton added “that recent increases have lifted our standing, but our financial commitment to educating our children is just average, compared with other states. Just average is not nearly good enough.”
We at MSBA could not agree more — average is not good enough when it comes to educating our students. We will continue to work with the governor, the House and the Senate to adequately fund our E-12 system this legislative session.