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Minnesota High School Graduates Making Big Gains in Postsecondary Education

Posted on March 27, 2014 at 11:35 AM
Categories: Education

Click here to explore the 2014 interactive Minnesota Measures infographic: A Report on Higher Education Performance.

Click here to see interactive infographic  

New research shows the percentage of young Minnesotans enrolling in higher education has increased dramatically. Between 2003 and 2011, the rate increased from 68 percent to 78 percent – a 10 percent jump. This is great news for Minnesota’s fast growing economy, which depends on a highly educated workforce.

To make further progress, last year Governor Dayton and the Legislature made the largest investment in student aid in a generation. This investment was important and urgent because Minnesota students borrow more money for education than the national average. This was a huge step in making more financial aid available for the students of Minnesota.

The Minnesota Measures: 2014 Report on Higher Education Performance also shows that 71 percent of first-time, full-time undergraduates depend on grants and scholarships to pay for their education. Commissioner Larry Pogemiller said the increasing enrollment of recent graduates shows the importance of the Minnesota State Grant, which provides need-based grants to over 100,000 Minnesotans.



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Governor Dayton signs $508 million in tax cuts for middle class and businesses into law

Posted on March 21, 2014 at 6:23 PM
Categories: Budget

Passed: Middle Class Tax Cuts

Governor Mark Dayton today signed legislation (HF1777) cutting taxes for middle class Minnesotans and businesses. The $508 million tax cut signed into law today will put more money in the pockets of middle class families, individuals, and thousands of businesses across Minnesota. Because the Legislature acted quickly to pass the bill, many Minnesotans will see immediate tax savings during the current tax filing season.

“These tax cuts will put more money in the pockets of Minnesota families and businesses, and in the spirit of the Unsession, make taxes simpler for Minnesotans,” said Governor Dayton.  “I thank Senate Majority Leader Tom Bakk, House Speaker Paul Thissen, House Majority Leader Erin Murphy, Tax Chairs Rod Skoe, Ann Lenczewski and Ann Rest, and the other legislators, who spearheaded these tax cuts to passage.”

Since some of these tax cuts will be available immediately during this filing season, the Minnesota Department of Revenue is working with tax preparers and online tax preparation services to update tax filing software for the estimated 1.4 million Minnesotans who have not yet filed their taxes.

For those Minnesotans who have already filed their taxes, the Minnesota Department of Revenue will review each tax return and determine whether adjustments and refunds can be made automatically. The Department will contact any taxpayer who will need to file an amended return to receive these new tax benefits.

Reducing Taxes for Middle Class Minnesotans ($230M)
By conforming Minnesota’s tax code to the federal government’s, the bill signed today by Governor Dayton will simplify taxes and provide tax cuts for middle class Minnesotans.

  • Tax Cuts for Married Couples. More than 650,000 married couples will save an average $115 per year through the elimination of the “marriage penalty.” This tax cut begins next year, for the 2014 income tax filing season.
  • Tax Cuts for Working Families. Over 16,000 more middle class families will qualify for the Working Family Tax Credit, and everyone who qualifies for the credit will receive an increase.
  • Tax Cuts for Parents. More than 25,000 families who qualify for child care tax credits will see an average increase in their tax credit of $74 per year.
  • Tax Cuts for Students. More than 285,000 recent college graduates could save up to $190 per year by deducting their student loan interest. Another 40,000 current college students and parents will receive a tuition deduction of $140 per year, on average.
  • Tax Cuts for Small Employers. Small businesses will be able to offer their employees tax-free tuition and adoption assistance. The tax bill signed by Governor Dayton today also simplifies small business taxes by eliminating requirements to maintain separate records for federal taxes.
  • Additional Tax Cuts. These middle class tax cuts will also help seniors, teachers, and homeowners. More information about these tax cuts is available on the Governor’s website.

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The State Budget Forecast is Great News for Minnesota

Posted on March 19, 2014 at 2:40 PM

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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.


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Governor Dayton Aids University of Minnesota’s Effort to Revive the Declining Bee Population

Posted on March 17, 2014 at 2:18 PM
Categories: Agriculture, Jobs, Economy, Education

      

Bee_Blog

 

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.     

 


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Governor Dayton’s Bonding Bill Invests in Iron Range

Posted on March 12, 2014 at 10:28 AM

Voyageurs_National_Park.jpg

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.


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Reasons to Preen: Minnesota's EagleCam

Posted on March 11, 2014 at 10:24 AM
Categories: Outdoors

An EagleCam still from the MNDNR website

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.


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First Act of Legislative Session Invests $20 Million in Heating Assistance

Posted on February 28, 2014 at 11:45 AM

Photo credit: Mark Evans

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.


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Dayton, Branstad: Don't mess with the RFS

Posted on February 24, 2014 at 8:00 AM
Categories: Transportation, Greater Minnesota, Commerce, Agriculture

Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton, Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad

Governor Mark Dayton Governor Terry BranstadWe 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.


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Governor Dayton’s bonding bill makes major investments in Greater Mankato area

Posted on February 20, 2014 at 10:43 AM
Categories: Bonding, Greater Minnesota, Jobs

Greater Mankato Area

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:

  • An additional $50 million of economic activity in the Greater Mankato region
  • More than 450 construction jobs, resulting in an $84 million economic impact on the region’s economy

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.


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Minnesota Posts Highest Graduation Rate in a Decade

Posted on February 19, 2014 at 3:02 PM

2013_02_19_Graduation_Rates

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.


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