Calling for bold action to erase shortcomings in education, DFL gubernatorial candidate Paul Thissen has proposed spending an extra $1 billion over five years to boost student achievement.
Thissen, a member of the Minnesota House of Representatives from Minneapolis, said he'd increase state income taxes and redirect savings he expects from overhauling the state's health care system to pay for the funding. He said the biggest burden of the tax increase would fall "on the richest Minnesotans."
The increased spending would reduce class sizes in K-12 schools, restore cuts in after-school programs, improve early childhood education and summer school, he said.
"It is time to act on a bold new vision for our children," Thissen said in announcing the initiative. "We cannot simply tinker around the edges."
His call for more education spending comes as DFL candidates for governor prepare for their party's endorsement convention in Duluth. A DFL ally, the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, has launched a "tax the rich" campaign as a way to bridge state budget gaps.
Thissen said he discussed his proposal with Education Minnesota, the state's teachers union, whose support could be critical to a DFL candidate for governor. The union has not endorsed a candidate.
"This is the latest in a long line of tax increases put forward by DFLers," said Brian McClung, press secretary for Republican Gov. Tim Pawlenty, in reiterating Pawlenty's opposition to tax hikes. Pawlenty is not running for re-election.