Gov. Mark Dayton has prioritized spending millions more on education, particularly on early childhood education and efforts to tackle the state's achievement gap between white and minority students.

Dayton unveiled his $42 billion budget proposal Tuesday, offering lawmakers his wishlist of spending priorities for the next two years. The spending plan proposed by the DFL governor will set the framework for budget negotiations during the legislative session. 

The $42-billion budget proposal for the upcoming biennium 19.4 percent more than what was spent during the 2012-13 biennium, the first two-year budget under Dayton. 

Dayton, who is serving his second and final term, is working with a projected $1-billion surplus that allowed him some financial cushion in setting his agenda for state spending. 

Education and human services comprised the largest parts of the budget aimed at children, with increases of $373 million and $44 million respectively. 

The governor has made education a priority during his second term and his budget showed a boost in spending intended to reduce the achievement gap. 

To that end, Dayton is requesting the Legislature increase the per-pupil spending formula to $5,948 by 2017 to give local school districts additional resources to reduce classroom sizes, hire more counselors and invest in technology. 

Additionally, the budget would also eliminate the Head Start waiting list, provide support for at-risk children ages 0-8 and offer free breakfast for all students in pre-kindergarten up to third grade. Currently, about 2,500 children are on the waiting list for Head Start and an estimated 83,000 students would be eligible for free breakfast, according to the governor's office.

Higher education was not neglected in the proposed budget, which is slated to received $93 million under Dayton's plan. Part of that would in part go toward holding down tuition costs, an effort to curb the growth of student-loan debt. A fact sheet distributed by the governor's office estimates students would save between $600 and $700 yearly on tuition. 

With his eye on boosting the national prominence of the University of Minnesota Medical School, Dayton's $93-million higher education request includes $30 million to hire 50 research faculty members over the next eight years and attract high-caliber students.

Dayton's budget proposal also includes $100 million for child-care and caregiver tax credits. Households earning up to $124,000 would be eligible for the credit, which would give direct tax relief averaging $481 per family to about 130,000 families statewide. The credit also would apply to dependent care for the disabled and elderly. 

The budget proposal also reduces funding for the Park Board by $3.7 over those years -- or $1.8 million a year. Read reporter Eric Roper's deeper look at that proposed cut here

The governor has also asked for $30 million to expand broadband internet access in rural Minnesota. An estimated 450,000 households lack access to internet at state speed goals, according to an estimate from the governor's office.

The Minnesota Management and Budget Office will release another budget and economic forecast in late February or early March that state lawmakers will work with to craft their own budget proposal. 

Follow Hot Dish Politics as we bring you more details on the full budget proposal. 

 

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