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Facing a divided Legislature, Gov. Mark Dayton has proposed a $42 billion two year budget that includes new spending for child care tax credits, child protection and education.

Dayton said the vast majority of new spending in his budget proposal is focused on education and child health.

“Minnesota’s future success – the health of our families, the vitality of our communities, and the prosperity of our state – will depend upon our making excellent educations available to all Minnesotans,” Dayton said.

To that end, Dayton’s budget includes $17 million for K-12 education with $373 million in new money, and an additional $93 million for higher education. It also includes an expansion of a child care tax credit that will cost the state $100 million. Another $44 million will go to child protection and mental health services.

His proposal also includes $109 million to provide 31,000 four-year-olds with preschool.

Altogether Dayton said the new spending on education accounts for more than half of the state’s projected $1 billion budget surplus.

“We’ve righted the ship,” said Education Department Commissioner Brenda Cassellius of education policy in the first four years of Dayton’s tenure.

She said that Dayton’s budget builds on those improvements.

“This budget directly supports kids and teachers who need it most,” Cassellius said.

• More: School officials say Dayton’s education budget falls short

Dayton’s proposal met with swift opposition from Republicans, who said Dayton was throwing too much money at education – a tactic that isn’t a proven remedy for the state’s achievement gap between white students and students of color.

“I guess if you spend more money, by virtue of that, you have improved education,” said Senate Minority Leader David Hann, R- Eden Prairie. “You have a whole group of kids in school today… who are not going to graduate because we don’t have any way to make sure that system works for those kids.”

House Speaker Kurt Daudt, R- Crown, said he hasn’t picked a date to release the Republican budget, but hinted that it would follow the next budget forecast released at the end of February. Nonetheless, he was critical of Dayt0n’s plan.

“It was a little bit uninspiring to see that Gov. Dayton didn’t have any major reforms in the budget, no big efforts to modernize our state services,” Daudt said. “Frankly, I think he’s missing some opportunities there. Hopefully we can work with him on those things in the course of the next couple of months.”

Dayton also said that his transportation funding bill would include more than $100 million from the general fund for transit projects.

Health and Human Services is also getting new funding. Some of that money would reduce the waiting list for child care assistance, child mental health services and public health initiatives in greater Minnesota.

Dayton’s budget includes a $62.6 million increase increase for the University of Minnesota, but the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities isn’t getting new funding until a until a dispute between management and faculty is settled, Dayton said.

“We take the governor’s decision not to recommend new funding for Minnesota State Colleges and Universities (MnSCU) at this time very seriously,” school administrators and faculty said in a joint statement. “We understand and share the governor’s concerns and are taking positive steps and having substantive dialogue to resolve our disagreements regarding [the school’s strategic plan].”

And he is eliminating state funding for the Minneapolis Park Board over its objections to the Southwest Light Rail project. The funding comes through the Metropolitan Council and amounts to $3.77 million.

Dayton’s budget also includes more than $70 million for new bonding to make railroads safer and annual railroad assessments to make rail crossings safer.

Noticeably absent from Dayton’s budget is new funding for nursing homes because the industry got a funding increase during the last legislative session. But nursing homes said it didn’t go far enough and are looking for what amounts to $200 million more in this session. Their proposal has the backing of some key House Republicans.

A coalition of nursing home industry groups said they will continue to push the issue.

“As 60,000 Minnesotans will turn 65 this year, and next year, and until at least 2031, the demand for care will continue to grow. We need to start the conversation immediately about how we are going to address the care of aging Minnesotans,” the groups said in a statement.

There’s already been a lot of competition for the surplus, both among legislators and interest groups.

For instance, school counselors want more funding, and some lawmakers are proposing the state pay for two-year college tuition.

Dayton’s proposals had immediate support from the DFL-controlled Minnesota Senate.

But the spending plan may face tougher sledding in the Republican-controlled Minnesota House, where many say they don’t want to spend too much of the surplus on programs and instead would prefer cutting taxes.

Nevertheless, House Republicans aren’t entirely opposed to using some of the surplus for specific projects, including a small transportation funding bill.

 

Good morning!

In Minnesota

Gov. Mark Dayton says Minnesota will fall behind economically and demographically if legislators don’t approve his sweeping $10 billion transportation revenue package. (MPR News)

The Legislature gave final approval to $17 million in recovery dollars for 47 Minnesota counties and three American Indian reservations that suffered damages and expense from flooding in June 2014.  (MPR News)

Environmental laws are facing fresh scrutiny at the Capitol as a new Republican majority in the House and the sway of Iron Range DFLers in the Senate make their power felt. (Star Tribune)

Gun owners gathered outside the Minnesota Capitol to tell state lawmakers that they plan to be “appropriately aggressive” in protecting their Second Amendment rights during the 2015 legislative session. (MPR News)

National Politics

The federal government’s 2015 budget deficit will fall slightly this year to $468 billion, the lowest since President Obama took office, according to the annual budget outlook released by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office. (USA Today)

The Koch brothers’ operation intends to spend $889 million in the run-up to the 2016 elections — potentially on the same scale as the formal institutions of the Republican Party. (Politico)

The Obama administration announced an ambitious goal to overhaul the way doctors are paid, tying their fees more closely to the quality of care rather than the quantity. (Washington Post)

Angie Craig, a vice president at a medical device company, announced Monday she was planning to run against GOP Rep. John Kline in the Second Congressional District next year. (Star Tribune)

 

Brooklyn Park resident John Ockuly, foreground, and others supporting gun rights, rally in front of the State Capitol Monday, Jan. 26, 2015 in St. Paul. (Jennifer Simonson / MPR News)

Gun owners gathered outside the Minnesota Capitol today to tell state lawmakers that they plan to be “appropriately aggressive” in protecting their Second Amendment rights during the 2015 legislative session.

Many of the same people have spent time at the Capitol in previous sessions, fighting against gun control measures. But this was the first time that two gun advocacy groups organized an official lobbying day.

“We’re here to show the public and the Legislature that we’re no longer going to idly sit back and play defense where out civil rights are concerned,” said Bryan Strawser, executive director of the Minnesota Gun Owners Political Action Committee. “We’re going to go on the offense together.”

House Speaker Kurt Daudt, R-Crown, told the rally that he will stand with gun owners to protect their rights.

“I’m a sportsman myself, and I have a permit to carry a handgun,” Daudt said.

Speaker of the House Kurt Daudt speaks to gun rights supporters Monday, Jan. 26, 2015 outside the State Capitol in St. Paul. (Jennifer Simonson / MPR News)

Gun owners have several proposals on their agenda.

Andrew Rothman, president of the Gun Owners Civil Rights Alliance, said they want Minnesota to join 46 other states that have the right to keep and bear arms spelled out in the state constitution. He said they also want a law that would prevent police from confiscating firearms during times of emergency.

Rothman told the crowd he was very disappointed to hear that state Sen. Kathy Sheran, DFL-Mankato, was proposing to ban guns in polling places on Election Day.

“We have 185,000 permit holders in the state, and have we ever had an incident at a polling place?,” Rothman asked. “No, but someone saw a gun and it made them frightened, so let’s pass a law. I’m tired of that.”

Rothman said he was ready to fight the proposal, and he urged others to do the same. But it’s not clear whether they’ll have a bill to oppose.

Sen. Sheran said a city administrator in her district raised concerns after the November election on behalf of election judges. Sheran said she’s been looking into issue, and spoke to some gun owners about it. But she said she has not decided whether to pursue legislation.

‘I’m trying to figure out why it isn’t a reasonable request to keep the polling place safe,” Sheran said. “I’m listening to all these different ways of thinking about how to improve the feeling of safety and security for these election judges. That’s as far as I’ve gone with it.”