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Dayton wants to use surplus to boost education spending

MinnPost file photo by James Nord

Apparently the Pawlenty era is truly over. MPR’s Tom Scheck writes, “Weeks after state officials announced a huge jump in Minnesota’s projected budget surplus, Gov. Mark Dayton Tuesday unveiled how he wants to spend it. Education would see the biggest boost. On Tuesday, he proposed spending $343 million to fully fund full-day pre-kindergarten for every 4-year-old in Minnesota. He held fast to that plan despite pleas from legislators and others to focus on targeted scholarships. He also called for a $41 million hike in special education funding.”

In the PiPress, David Montgomery says, “On Monday morning alone, the House Ways and Means Committee heard testimony urging them to:

— Spend $875 million more for schools.

— Put more than $800 million into the budget reserves.

— Spend $400 million from the general fund on roads and bridges.

— Cut human services spending to pay for other priorities.

— Do anything but cut human services spending.

— Put $39 million to meet housing needs.

— Cut business taxes by hundreds of millions of dollars.

— Make no cut in taxes at all.”

And don’t forget a pony for every good boy and girl.

The Strib editorializes on the budget grab bag. “The state’s fiscal past was also a prominent theme Tuesday as DFLer Dayton presented his ideas for deploying a forecast $1.9 billion biennial surplus for the public good. Leading Republicans have proposed rebating some or all of that sum to taxpayers. Dayton likened that idea to the ‘frenzy’ of tax cuts of 1999-2001 that proved to be a prelude to a dozen years of recurring state deficits. Dayton is right: That is a chapter in state history that today’s lawmakers should avoid repeating.”

Also in education, MnSCU has not been on what anyone would call a roll. Alex Friedrich at MPR says, “Decreasing enrollment is straining Minnesota’s state-run colleges and universities. The enrollment drops have been so large that MnSCU system leaders on Tuesday said 11 campuses have drafted financial recovery plans to deal with resulting funding deficits. The system lost almost $44 million last year, or a little more than 2 percent of the MnSCU budget. Overall enrollment dropped 3.6 percent, though some campuses saw drops in the double digits. And some schools have seen decreasing enrollment over multiple years.”

Thirty five years is a pretty cold case. Katie Kather of the PiPress says, “Thirty-five years ago, a farmer found the decomposed body of a woman in a drainage ditch near Blue Earth, Minn. She had been raped and strangled, and no one knew who she was. Investigators announced Tuesday that DNA analysis led them to identify the woman long known as ‘Blue Earth Jane Doe,’ who after the discovery of her body on May 30, 1980, was buried anonymously at a cemetery in the southern Minnesota city. Her name is Michelle Yvette Busha. … Nine years later, Robert Leroy Nelson, who had been a Minnesota state trooper at the time of the murder, confessed to assaulting and killing ‘Blue Earth Jane Doe’ while on duty in Faribault County.”

Did we say “cops”? Via the AP, “On his first day back from a mandatory leave for shooting and wounding a knife-wielding man earlier this month, a Wisconsin police officer shot and killed an armed suspect after confronting him following a chase, authorities said. Kenosha police officer Pablo Torres returned from leave Saturday, 10 days after shooting a man who advanced on police armed with knives, the department said.”

Vic was pretty much a household name. Frederick Melo of the PiPress says, “A broadcaster, politician, singer, saxophonist and entrepreneur, Victor John Tedesco began his career at age 9, selling newspapers in St. Paul during the Great Depression. Tedesco, who represented the East Side on the St. Paul City Council for 20 years, was recognized as one of the most colorful DFL leaders of his era. He died Monday at age 92. With his brothers, Tedesco owned and operated 11 radio stations throughout the Upper Midwest from the 1940s to the early 1970s. He also played saxophone with the big band that bore his name.”

The St. Croix mega-bridge that will soon unlock the development sprawl potential of western Wisconsin will soon be getting an actual road surface. Says Mary Divine of the PiPress, “The massive precast concrete segments that will form the deck of the new St. Croix River bridge are starting to pile up at a storage yard outside the Grey Cloud Island casting facility in southern Washington County. Ninety-nine of the bridge pieces — each the size of a two-story, three-bedroom home and weighing about 170 tons — were on display during a media open house Tuesday morning. Inside the temporary factory, crews were putting the finishing touches on six others.”

A bit more far-sighted is the Rochester-Twin Cities rail project. Michael Brun of the Forum News Service says, “Developments this week look promising for the controversial high-speed rail passenger line proposed between Rochester and the Twin Cities. The Minnesota Department of Transportation, Federal Railroad Administration and Olmsted County Regional Railroad Authority announced Monday that the agencies intend to prepare a two-step environmental impact statement for the high-speed rail project, known as Zip Rail. Then Tuesday, Zip Rail opponent Rep. Pat Garofalo, R-Farmington, said he reached an agreement with project backers to ease up on proposed legislation to block the state from spending tax dollars on the line.”

This sort of thing is pretty much Standard Operating Procedure. John Myers of the Duluth News Tribune reports, “The president and CEO of U.S. Steel got a big bonus for 2014 for cutting costs and leading the steel giant to its most profitable year since 2008, but the extra money has some Minnesota lawmakers rankled as the company lays off hundreds of Iron Range steelworkers. Mario Longhi earned $13,211,513 in 2014, up from $5,641,656 in 2013, according to a document filed Friday with the federal Securities and Exchange Commission. Longhi’s base salary was $1.2 million with an added $7.5 million in stock awards and more than $4 million in ‘non-equity incentive plan compensation.’”

If you’re part of the gun-grabbin’ crowd out to shred the Constitution and leave us defenseless in the face of the naked aggression of Big Gummint, you’ll find this interactive map of where in the country support for gun control is highest … and where it isn’t. Via ISideWith.com.

Speaking of the Second Amendment, at KARE-TV, Sara Pelissero says, “The high-profile case of a man who pleaded guilty to killing his ex-boyfriend at a local gas station before leading police on a month-long manhunt came to an end Tuesday. Lyle ‘Ty’ Hoffman, 45, was sentenced to 25 and a half years Tuesday, with 17 years in prison. The remaining third will be supervised release. He pleaded guilty to second-degree murder in January and avoided having his case go to trial.”

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Comments (2)

  1. Submitted by Georgia Holmes on 03/18/2015 - 12:02 pm.

    MnSCU Funding and Enrollment

    I don’t know about the funding and enrollment at all of the MnSCU schools, but I do know a little about what has been happening at Minnesota State University, Mankato (aka Mankato State) and Saint Cloud State University. When I first starting teaching at MSU about 34 years ago the funding of the school came largely from state appropriated money with a much smaller amount from tuition. In the 1990’s the formula started relying more on tuition and less on state appropriations. At that time the formula was about 60% from appropriations and about 40% from tuition. It has now just flipped to 60% from tuition and 40% from state appropriations. That makes it difficult to plan, because so much depends on how many students actually show up and then return in subsequent semesters. It also means that even a small drop in enrollment of 100 or so students can have a big effect on the school’s finances. When coupled with the increase in administrators, MSUAASF faculty (those assigned to the union that provides services more than teaching), MAPE, and other non-teaching union employees, as opposed to IFO teaching faculty, it becomes very difficult to plan and administer the schools. I don’t mean to say that non-teaching MnSCU employees are not valuable. They are, especially with the increased reliance on technology in higher ed, but spending more money on this part of the budget means that teaching faculty have to generate more and more credit hours and tuition to support the schools. This is happening at the very time that some legislators want to cut teaching faculty and question their value. It all amounts to a perfect storm that seems to be getting worse. At least Minnesota is not talking about the sorts of drastic cuts that Wisconsin, Arizona and other states are talking about.

  2. Submitted by Ray Schoch on 03/18/2015 - 12:29 pm.

    MnSCU Funding and Enrollment

    I believe Ms. Holmes has correctly identified the crux of the problem – a flip from primarily state funding to primarily tuition funding – and yes, in that context even small changes in enrollment can (and do) have substantial effects on funding.

    Thank your tax-averse state legislators. Nowadays, they’re mostly Republican, but I’d guess that, 20 years ago, the political parties responsible for eroding state support for the system included both the DFL and the GOP. The “Minnesota Miracle” was a short-lived phenomenon, apparently never embraced by a sizable segment of the legislature, and of course, impossible under the Grover Norquist acolytes currently taking up space under the capitol dome.

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