Senator Dahle Prepares for Legislative Session with Constituent Meetings
I recently wrapped up a series of town hall meetings, nine in all, in order to hear from constituents
from across our senate district as I prepared for the 2016 legislative session, which began this week.
Additional meetings included Le Sueur County township officers, Rice County commissioners, the corn
and soybean growers, Minnesota Reading Corps teachers and school administrators, just to name a few.
I welcomed the face-to-face discussions and input provided by constituents who took the time to share their thoughts and concerns. With this valuable input, I am ready to represent our region in the 2016
session, where we face new opportunities and challenges. The 2016 session will be very short—only 11 weeks long—and we have 3 major bills in front of us: a bonding bill, transportation funding, and a tax bill that addresses property tax relief.
We begin the session in a good financial position. Because of common-sense fiscal decisions in recent years, we start the session with a structurally balanced budget, a $900 million surplus, and money in the budget reserves to protect the state from a potential economic downturn in the future.
Many of the folks I spoke with expressed the great need for a robust transportation bill. Because we have not been investing enough into our roads and bridges, the state’s funding gap is expected to be
$850 million each year for the next 20 years. Over that 20 year period, that means Minnesota will be over $16 billion short in routine road and bridge maintenance and repairs for our existing infrastructure—and that doesn’t include the transit needs we have for elderly Minnesotans in our area.
I also heard about the need for property tax relief, thoughts about the buffer strips, climate change, solar panels, the Citizens’ Board, and bees. These are all worthwhile issues that we hope to address now and into the next legislative session.
As the session starts, I am carrying bills to address teacher shortages, student loan debt, and
school funding—especially as it relates to facilities and debt service equalization. The teacher shortage problem is a relatively recent one that needs a multi-faceted approach including licensure, reciprocity, and professional development. Student loan debt is also a growing problem that threatens both the economic stability of those entering the workforce and parents working to help their children get a firm footing on their post-secondary education and their careers.
I have authored other legislation as well, including a barn preservation bill, a constituent initiated bill to make March Madness brackets legal, and a consumer protection tax debt settlement bill. It may be a short session, but there’s still time to contact me with your own thoughts or comment on new legislation. I can be reached at 651 296 1279 or [email protected], and I’m always
interested to hear your thoughts on new legislation, what should be done with the surplus, or your
comments and questions about any part of the legislative process.