Column: Gov. Dayton's vetoes cast shadow of disappointment
Mike Goggin, R-Red Wing, can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 651-296-4264.
When the Senate re-convened at the end of February, we knew it was going to be a fast and furious session. We had a full agenda and barely more than three months to get it all done.
Unfortunately, Gov. Mark Dayton vetoed two of the three biggest bills of the session — a tax cut bill and a bill providing budget adjustments thanks to positive revenue forecasts.
I can't tell you how disappointed I am in the governor and his decision to veto these two bills that would have helped so many Minnesota families.
We passed the first tax rate cut in almost two decades, reducing taxes for 2.2 million Minnesotans. All told, 99.8 percent of Minnesotans would have seen their taxes go down, or have been held harmless, under our plan.
Instead, nearly 1 million people — roughly 37 percent of Minnesota tax filers — are facing tax increases because of Gov. Dayton's veto.
The budget bill would have been a terrific victory for Minnesota's working families. Several bills I worked on this year were included, like my legislation to provide more resources to help farm families and Minnesota's agricultural communities find better access to mental health treatment. Everyone who lives in rural Minnesota knows the mental health struggles that come with working in the agricultural industry; we had an opportunity to take care of more people, but the governor vetoed it.
Here are some other things the governor vetoed:
• $28 million to strengthen school safety. This is the subject that is at the forefront of everyone's mind in the wake of tragedies in Parkland, Fla., Sante Fe, Texas, and other communities. The funding in our budget bill would have helped schools afford more security officers on campus, make safety improvements to their facilities, hire more mental health counselors, and develop better mental health programming.
• Funding to combat the opioid addiction through opioid abuse prevention programs and stronger requirements on doctors.
• Building on last year's commitment to broadband access, we added $15 million more for the Border-to-Border Broadband program, so underserved and unserved communities could finally get access to critical high speed internet.
• Stronger penalties for distracted driving, and for the production and sale of child pornography.
• We increased assistance for college students, including workforce development scholarships for students entering high demand jobs, student loan debt counseling, loan forgiveness for agricultural educators, and more affordable textbooks.
• Protections for victims of the elder abuse scandal.
• Funding and stronger oversight and accountability to help get the governor's failed new system for licensing and registering vehicles or MNLARS back on track.
The session was not lost entirely, however. The governor did sign a large infrastructure bill, with more than $500 million for transportation throughout Minnesota, $129 million for sewer and water infrastructure upgrades, funding for several new veterans homes throughout the state, funding to build regional mental health crisis centers, and funding for several projects in our area.
Wabasha will get $8 million for the National Eagle Center expansion and the Rivertown Resurgence. The Eagle Center expansion will add more eagles, more exhibits and more educational opportunities.
It contains $330,000 for a number of railroad crossing quiet zones between Goodview and Minnesota City, and $616,000 to make badly needed structural improvements to the Goodhue County Historical Society museum, including a new HVAC system, roofing and windows.
There is plenty to be excited about in this year's bonding bill, but when we reflect on this year's session and spend the summer talking about how it went, it will be hard not to think about what could have been had the governor been willing to work together instead of vetoing two of the most important bills of session.