As many as 130,000 Minnesota families could receive state help to reduce the cost of child care and dependent care for the elderly under a proposal by Gov. Mark Dayton unveiled Tuesday.
Dayton, the two-term DFL governor, said the initiative would provide direct tax relief that could reduce the cost of child care and dependent care for working families.
"Rising childcare costs have put hard financial strains on many Minnesota families, making it increasingly difficult for working parents to hold their jobs while assuring quality care for their children," Dayton said in a statement. "My Child Care Tax Credit helps to provide Minnesota families with options -- so they don't have to choose between working and caring for their families."
The proposal would provide about $100 million direct tax relief. Under Dayton's plan, the average family would receive $481; the maximum benefit would be $2,100 for eligibile families.
Photo: Gov. Mark Dayton gives his inaugural address earlier this month at the Landmark Center in St. Paul. (Leila Navidi/Star Tribune)
Gov. Mark Dayton said Friday that he plans to pitch an $850 million bonding bill in February.
"I’m going to propose a bonding bill this year…probably about $850 million or so," Dayton told reporters shortly after he spoke at the annual Department of Natural Resources "roundtable," where he told stakeholders he plans to propose legislation to mandate 50-foot "buffer zones" around waterways to prevent water runoff pollution and preserve pheasant habitats.
Asked how Dayton would fund the measure, Dayton said about $150 million would come from the bonding bill, which he will propose after the Minnesota Management and Budget office releases its February forecast.
Although 2015 is considered a budget year and not typically a bonding year, odd-year bonding bills are not unheard of. This year's bill would come on the heels of a $1 billion bonding bill passed last session.
Gov. Mark Dayton on Friday said he was open to considering a teacher seniority bill proposed by a DFL senator but expressed disappointment with Senate Minority Leader David Hann for sharing details of a conversation the two had on the issue.
"First of all, I said anything we discussed at the residence is supposed to stay at the residence, so I can’t trust Senator Hann and other leaders on both sides of the aisle to keep to that promise and we’ll have to modify our future conversations, but I said to him that I was open to considering it, I didn’t say I supported it," Dayton told reporters after an event in Brooklyn Park.
The conversation was over legislation proposed by Sen. Terri Bonoff, DFL-Minnetonka, who broke with her party by introducing a bill Thursday that would end so-called "last in, first out" practices in teacher layoffs. House Republicans have introduced similar legislation and Bonoff has secured the support of two other Republican senators who signed on as cosponsors of her bill.
"Clearly this is going to be a subject for legislative review and initiative, so I’m open to considering it, but I’m not advocating for it, per se," Dayton said.
A spokeswoman for Hann declined to comment on Dayton's remarks.
When Republicans last controlled the Legislature in 2012 they pushed through a measure that would have eliminated last-in, first-out practices, arguing that they hurt student achievement. Dayton vetoed the bill — which Bonoff supported — saying it was vague and premature in the absence of a well-developed, objective evaluation system.
State Senate Democrats proposed a new fuel tax of 6.5 percent per gallon, along with a hike in license tab fees and a one-cent sales tax increase in the seven-county metropolitan area, as a way to raise about $800 million in additional state money every year to upgrade Minnesota's transportation system.
"This is a serious problem that requires a serious solution," said Sen. Susan Kent, DFL-Woodbury, who appeared with a handful of colleagues at a Monday morning news conference to unveil their plan. The Democrats, many of whom represent swing districts, acknowledged the political difficulty of a proposal that would demand more money from the pockets of every Minnesota driver.
"I can't think of another path," said Sen. Vicki Jensen, DFL-Owatonna. "I can't find another path" to raising the kind of money needed to repair and replace thousands of miles of crumbling roads, hundreds of aging bridges while also increasing road capacity with a few key projects.
The proposal, authored by Minneapolis DFL Sen. Scott Dibble, has as its centerpiece the sales tax on gas at the wholesale level of 6.5 percent a gallon. That would be on top of the existing 28.5-cents-per-gallon state gas tax, so drivers would definitely pay more at the pump.
That's identical to a proposal from Gov. Mark Dayton, who has identified a big transportation spending boost as one of his top priorities of the new legislative session. Dayton has also advocated a license tab fee increase and a metro sales tax.
Dayton and DFL senators have repeatedly cited the work of a transportation panel, convened by Dayton in 2012, that produced a report stating the state needs to raise about an additional $6 billion over 10 years in order to keep its roads and bridges in decent working order.
Republicans, who hold the House majority, have also called fixing roads and bridges a priority; but GOP lawmakers have been much more reluctant to sign on with tax increases. Last week, House Republicans proposed an additional $750 million in transportation funding in the next four years, a figure Dayton blasted as not nearly sufficient.
The DFL and GOP are also likely to square off over transit funding. The one-cent metro sales tax increase in the Senate plan would raise about $250 million in 2016, or an estimated $1.30 a week for the average metro resident.
A flashpoint could be the ongoing Southwest Light Rail project, which requires $121 million from the state in order to proceed. Dibble said he'd like to see that money come from the metro sales tax, which Dayton has already suggested. But Republicans, including House Speaker Kurt Daudt, have repeatedly emphasized their opposition to spending any state dollars on the project.
From left, Judie Fos speaks to Gov. Mark Dayton as Suzanne Edwards, Mary Gross and Lt. Gov. Tina Smith prepare to have their photo taken on Saturday night at the North Star Ball at St. Paul's Union Depot. More photos by Aaron Lavinsky can be found here.
Gov. Mark Dayton, dressed casually in jeans and a shirt with sleeves rolled up, thanked his supporters in very brief remarks at his inaugural ball Saturday night at the newly renovated Union Depot in downtown St. Paul.
He said that in deference to the event's sponsors he wanted to keep it nonpartisan and non-political, so, "That doesn't give me much to talk about," he said.
Dayton reflected wistfully and briefly on his three decades of public life and thanked long time supporters.
"It means so much to me that you're here," he said, before introducing new Lt. Gov. Tina Smith.
Rep. Erin Murphy sought to get the crowd enthused: "Do you feel mighty?" she said to cheers.
The several hundred gathered to celebrate the Dayton victory, who paid $25 for tickets ($15 for students) got warmed up with a DJ, cash bar and finger food.
State Auditor Rebecca Otto, Secretary of State Steve Simon and a handful of legislators, cabinet members and other politicos were in attendance.
Gail and Joel Roberts, who live in Mendota Heights but raised their three boys in St. Paul, said they were there to celebrate the governor's victory. The retired math professor and early chlidhood educator said they appreciated Dayton's commitment to education.
"It has the feel of the people's inaugural," Gail Roberts said.
The crowd's attire ranged from jeans to a stylish white dinner jacket worn by Kader Toovi, who was celebrating after working on the campaign of Sen. Al Franken. His date Toni Ojoyeyi wore a subtly sparkly dress.
The Governor's Inaugural Committee is what's known as a 527 organization, which refers to an IRS term. It will report its contributions and expenses by July 31, 2015.
Major sponsors included Pentair, Delta, AFSCME, the laborers union, 3M, Cargill, CenterPoint Energy, Enbridge, Thomson Reuters, and the law firms of Faegre Baker Daniels and Robins, Kaplan, Miller & Ciresi.