The latest State Budget Forecast is great news for Minnesota! For the first time in seven years, the Forecast is predicting budget surpluses for our state’s current biennium and the next one. When I took office three years ago, the 2011 Forecast predicted a deficit of $5 billion for the next two years. This year’s Forecast predicts a surplus of $2.6 billion.
Photo credit: Flickr user ndboy
Bees are receiving their share of the spotlight during this year’s legislative session. Governor Dayton’s bonding proposal recommends investing $12 million in the University of Minnesota Bee research laboratory, which will foster the expansion of agriculture research and help revitalize Minnesota’s bee population.
The work of pollinators is vital to the health of numerous fruits, vegetables, and crops worldwide, accounting for one in every three bites of food. These busy insects improve the vitality of nearly half of Minnesota’s entire crop production, which translates to thousands of jobs. Overall, Minnesota’s farm and foods sectors generate $74 billion in annual economic activity for our state – helping to sustain communities across the state. The declining population is a growing concern, and Governor Dayton’s recommendation is a promising investment for thousands of Minnesota farmers.
The jobs bill Governor Mark Dayton proposed last month will make critical investments in infrastructure projects statewide, including key projects across Minnesota’s Iron Range – investments that will add value to our communities, and build on the momentum of our state’s growing economy. In total, the Governor’s bonding proposal would invest $986 million in infrastructure improvements statewide, creating 27,000 jobs.
An EagleCam still from the Minnesota Department of Natural Resource's website
Minnesota’s winter has ruffled a few feathers over the past few months for Minnesotans, but the Bald Eagles featured on the Minnesota Department of Natural Resource’s EagleCam are taking the cold weather in stride. For the second year the EagleCam project features a live feed of a Bald Eagle nest in the Twin cities metro area. It is a great opportunity to see Minnesota’s thriving wildlife up-close without a trek through the ice and snow.Despite the frigid weather, these Bald Eagles continue to soar in internet hits and views. EagleCam received 21,771 visits from 50 states and 54 countries on its first day broadcasting. These eagles don’t just preen for the camera though—viewers watch the Bald Eagle couple work hard together, switching between incubating the eggs, feeding, and protecting the nest.
These two eagles aren’t the only team featured in this project. EagleCam is a collaborative project between the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, their information technology staff, and the Minnesota Information Technology Central staff. This year their teamwork has brought the addition of mobile support to viewers. People from all over can enjoy a glimpse into the life of some of Minnesota’s finest residents.
Photo credit: cc Flickr user Mark Evans
ST. PAUL, MN – Governor Mark Dayton this morning signed legislation providing additional state funding to keep Minnesotans safe and warm during this winter’s propane emergency. The first bill signed into law by Governor Dayton this session (HF2374/SF1961) adds $20 million to the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP), giving approximately 180,000 Minnesotans the financial help they need to pay their heating bills this winter.
“The amount of propane needed to heat Minnesota homes, farms, and businesses during this exceptionally cold winter and the skyrocketing cost of propane threatened to exhaust our state’s LIHEAP funding and put our citizens out in the cold. This funding crisis required immediate action – action that the legislature wisely took today,” said Governor Dayton. “We are continuing to do everything possible to keep Minnesotans safe and warm during this emergency.”
Soaring prices for heating fuel, caused by a severe shortage of propane in the Midwest, have led to financial hardship for families across Minnesota – placing additional strain on LIHEAP funds. Without state action, Minnesota’s heating assistance funds were projected to run out shortly after March 1st of this year. But the new state funding allocation provided today will help ensure that all eligible Minnesota households seeking assistance to heat their homes this winter will get the financial help they need.
“By the end of this winter, we are projecting that nearly 180,000 qualifying Minnesota households will apply for and receive heating assistance – that is a 30 percent increase over last year,” said Commerce Commissioner Mike Rothman, whose agency manages the state’s LIHEAP program. “Without the support of Governor Dayton and the Legislature, we would not have been able to provide tens of thousands of families the help they need to weather the rest of these cold winter months.”
In a letter to legislators earlier this month, Governor Dayton expressed his plans to shore up state funding for LIHEAP, if the federal government did not provide additional funding for Minnesota. The new heating assistance funds authorized by the legislature today will be available immediately for eligible Minnesota households.
Expanded Heating Assistance Program Will Help Thousands of Minnesotans
Knowing the financial hardships Minnesotans are facing due to the propane shortage, Governor Dayton took executive action earlier this month to expand LIHEAP assistance to another 120,000 Minnesota households. Now, Minnesotans earning less than 60 percent of the state median income (SMI) are eligible for LIHEAP.
That means a family of four earning less than $52,370 per year, or a household of two earning less than $35,612 now qualify for heating assistance this winter. The Minnesota Department of Commerce projects that roughly 30,000 to 40,000 newly-eligible households will apply for heating assistance this year.
LIHEAP recipients will also benefit from additional financial assistance this winter. In response to the propane shortage, the Dayton Administration announced that LIHEAP applicants who heat their homes with propane and heating oil will now qualify for up to $1,000 in crisis payments – an increase of $500.
Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton, Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad
We are governors from neighboring states and different political parties. We don't agree on everything, but we stand united in our belief that our nation needs a robust Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) and together in our opposition to the Environmental Protection Agency's proposal to weaken the RFS.
Since Congress enacted the RFS in 2005 by huge bipartisan margins, it has provided the secure policy foundation that rural America needs to continue investments in renewable fuels. Those investments yield excellent returns. They diversify our nation's energy portfolio, clean the air, grow opportunities for businesses, create good paying jobs in rural America, add value to farm products, and give consumers lower-cost choices at the pump.
Big Oil dislikes renewable fuels, and has used its clout in Washington D.C. and at state capitals to thwart their progress. When Minnesota became the first state to require all gasoline sold to contain at least 10 percent ethanol (E10), Big Oil predicted fearsome disasters. They warned that ethanol would clog cars' carburetors and explode their engines, disrupt supply lines causing gasoline shortages, and increase the price at the pump for consumers. None of that happened.
The petroleum industry also claimed that the RFS causes higher fuel prices. In fact, the opposite has proven true. On February 4, 2014, regular gasoline in Cresco, Iowa, a town about 15 minutes from the Iowa-Minnesota border, was selling for $3.44 per gallon. E10 was selling at $3.13 per gallon. E85 fuel, which is 85 percent ethanol, was selling for $2.60 per gallon at the same station - 84 cents per gallon cheaper than regular gasoline.
A recent study at Iowa State University found that, "Feasible increases in the ethanol mandate in 2014 will cause a small decline in the price of E10. Our results should reassure those in Congress and the Administration who are worried that following the RFS commitment to expanding the use of renewable fuels will result in sharply higher fuel prices for consumers."
The Environmental Protection Agency previously estimated that by 2022, renewable fuels would replace 13.6 billion gallons of gasoline and diesel consumption and save motorists nearly $12 billion each year. The EPA also predicted that this displacement of gasoline and diesel would reduce annual greenhouse gas emissions by 138 million metric tons, equivalent to removing 27 million vehicles from our nation's highways. Ethanol can increase competition and save consumers money, provide real choice at the pump, and drive innovations and efficiencies that are good for the economy.
Photo Credit: Flickr User Aaron Landry
Governor Mark Dayton has proposed a jobs bill that will make critical investments in infrastructure projects across our state, and create an estimated 27,000 jobs. The Governor’s bonding proposal would make major investments in key projects in Mankato and surrounding communities. Some of those projects include:
Mankato Civic Center and Ice Arena. The Governor’s proposal recommends investing $14.5 million in the renovation and expansion of the Mankato Civic Center and Ice Arena. While many Minnesotans may know it as the home of Minnesota State Maverick hockey teams, the center also is critical to the regional economy – hosting conferences and regional events. Since it was first built, more than 80 businesses have started or expanded in downtown Mankato adding more than 520 new jobs, while retaining an additional 400 jobs.
Making this new investment in the Mankato Civic Center will help ensure this shovel-ready expansion and renovation project moves past the planning stage. Doing so will deliver big benefits for our state, including:
South Central College. Governor Dayton understands that Minnesotans need access to a world-class education to be prepared for the jobs of the future. That is why nearly 25 percent of the Governor’s bonding proposal invests in higher education projects, including $7.5 million to renovate science, technology, and engineering, and math facilities at South Central College in North Mankato. Making these improvements will help Minnesotans develop the skills they need for great jobs in health care, computer technology, and agribusiness.
Minnesota Department of Education (MDE) Commissioner Brenda Cassellius was joined today by Office of Higher Education (OHE) Commissioner Larry Pogemiller and Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED) Commissioner Katie Clark Sieben to announce that graduation rates are the highest in the last decade, with more than 79.5 percent of Minnesota high school seniors graduating in 2013, up from 77.6 percent in 2012. This increase is twice the yearly increase seen over the past three years, showing acceleration in progress for Minnesota seniors.
"Today is a great day for students throughout Minnesota," Cassellius said. "We are not only seeing a higher graduation rate for all students, but increases in the number of students graduating in every single group. These increases are the result of targeted investments by Governor Mark Dayton and the Legislature, as well as greater accountability for schools through our waiver, and the incredible work being done each and every day by Minnesota’s educators."
Across the board, all student groups showed gains, with some of the largest increases being made by black students—up 6 percent over last year—and students learning English, whose rate increased by 7.5 percent over 2012. In fact, no single group of students made less than a 3 percentage point gain.
The Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development announced today that Minnesota ranked fifth among states in employee perceptions of job creation at their workplaces, according to a new study released by the Gallup organization.
“The Gallup Job Creation Index results are another positive indication of a strong economy in Minnesota,” said Katie Clark Sieben, commissioner of the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED). “High scores in the index strongly correlate with standard of living and confidence in the economy rankings.”
Snowplow Skills Training at Camp Ripley
Governor Dayton understands the importance of investing in Minnesota’s future. Just like a homeowner who maintains their property – making smart investments in Minnesota’s infrastructure will ensure our state remains a great place to live for decades to come. That’s why the Governor’s bonding bill proposes to invest $986 million in critical infrastructure projects across our state. These projects will produce more than 27,000 jobs for Minnesotans and improve facilities essential for job creation, education, and transportation.
The Brainerd Lakes region would benefit from several projects proposed in the Governor’s bonding bill, including: