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      Today in the Budget

      Posted on February 26, 2013 at 12:08 PM

      MN Mayors, Commissioners, and Metropolitan Council Chair Haigh

      Today, Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak, St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman, and Metropolitan Council Chair Sue Haigh were joined by a group of mayors and county commissioners at a Capitol news conference urging legislators to support Governor Mark Dayton’s proposal to increase Minnesota’s investment in transit.
      Joining Rybak, Coleman, and Haigh were Hennepin County Commissioner Peter McLaughlin, Eagan Mayor Mike Maguire, West St. Paul Mayor John Zanmiller, Shakopee Mayor Brad Tabke, Savage Mayor Janet Williams, and Golden Valley Mayor Shep Harris. In their words, Governor Dayton’s transit plan: "would create a 21st century transit system in Minnesota, which is critical for job creation, economic prosperity and our ability to be globally competitive."
      This afternoon, Office of Higher Education Director Larry Pogemiller will meet with college students in Winona to discuss student debt, and Governor Dayton’s plan to increase higher education funding – including $80 million in direct financial aid to students. The governor’s proposed investment in the Minnesota State Grant Program would help make college more affordable students like Rahel Theodros. Under the governor’s plan, Rahel would receive an additional $1,200 in direct student aid. More information about Rahel’s story is attached and below.
      Later today, Human Services Commissioner Lucinda Jesson will visit with hospital administrators and medical professionals in St. Cloud. Commissioner Jesson will discuss health care investments in Governor Dayton’s budget proposal, and other strategies to reform Minnesota’s health care system.
      In the News
      Winona Daily News
      William Mann: Budget proposal helps make college possible for some
      As the president of Saint Mary’s University, one of the three institutions of higher education that call Winona home, I am compelled to speak for our students and families and commend Gov. Mark Dayton for making quality, affordable college education a priority in his most recent budget proposal.
      Particularly meaningful among the priorities he has laid out is a 25 percent increase in funding for the Minnesota State Grant program. The state grant is a need-based state award which offers low- and middle-class students at Minnesota colleges or universities an annually renewable grant for tuition, books or living expenses while attending college. The program benefits students attending both public and private institutions of higher education.
      The proposed increase to the state grant would help even more low- and middle-class families pay for college. According to the state Minnesota Office of Higher Education, current grant recipients would see their grants increase by an average of $300 per year. And 5,000 additional students would become eligible to receive grants. Many of these newly eligible recipients come from middle-class families that earn $50,000 or more per year and are ineligible for the federal Pell Grant.

      Hibbing Daily Tribune
      JOBZ: program to be replaced?
      The Job Opportunity Building Zone, known as JOBZ and enacted in 2003 and launched in 2004 by former Republican Gov. Tim Pawlenty, gave tax breaks to start-ups or companies that wanted to expand that were within 10 job zones in the state. The program is set to expire Dec. 31, 2015, and if Gov. Mark Dayton’s budget passes, a new program will start to take its place this year.
      The change is partially due to the number of problems companies faced with the JOBZ program. According to a Minnesota Office of the Legislative Auditor, the JOBZ program lacked budget constraints and policies for counties and government to follow. Some businesses weren’t able to meet the requirements they were given, though they had already received the tax breaks.
      There were just a handful of businesses on the Range that utilized the program. “It was one of our tools in our tool box in our agency,” said Iron Range Resources and Rehabilitation Board (IRRRB) Commissioner Tony Sertich. “We didn’t use it that often. There were a few good successes. But if it’s not being used today, we need to change it and find a better use of those dollars.”
      Dayton administration says government efficiency efforts paying off
      When Gov. Mark Dayton took office, he talked about wanting to build a leaner, more efficient state government. “A better government for a better Minnesota,” he called it. So far, officials in his administration believe they've delivered.
      Dayton’s executive branch says it built on existing government efficiency efforts and reports achieving millions of dollars in cost savings or avoidance, reduced timelines for obtaining government services and a significantly more efficient workforce since he came to the Capitol in 2011.
      “It’s really making sure that we’re providing services to Minnesota citizens in the most efficient and effective way possible,” Department of Administration Commissioner Spencer Cronk told reporters in a conference call on Friday. The Dayton administration’s says its continuous improvement efforts have capitalized on problem-solving from the ground up to build efficiencies into hundreds of state services.
      Those efficiencies have ranged from cutting the incidence of bedsores in veterans homes by half to a 40 percent reduction in the time it takes to greatly reducing procedures for determining eligibility for WorkForce Center and Dislocated Worker programs.