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New Investments in E-12 Education Take Effect Today

Posted on July 01, 2015 at 9:37 AM

E-12 Education investments will improve student achievement, make additional investments in early learning

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Governor Dayton visits with students at Westview Elementary in Apple Valley.

ST. PAUL, MN – During the 2015 Legislative Session, Governor Dayton and the Minnesota Legislature made important new investments in E-12 education. Many of those new investments take effect today, Wednesday, July 1, 2015. The $525 million investment enacted this year will increase funding for every Minnesota classroom, improve early learning opportunities, improve literacy, and provide needed new resources for American Indian education and English language learners. New school funding enacted this session is directed toward strategies proven to help close achievement gaps, raise graduation rates, and improve career and college readiness.

“This year, we made important new investments in education that will improve educational opportunities for students across Minnesota,” said Governor Dayton. “We have a lot more work to do to close achievement gaps in Minnesota, and provide excellent educations for every student. I will remain fiercely committed to that important work in the years ahead.”

“We have made significant progress in our work to provide an excellent education to every child in Minnesota,” said Education Commissioner Brenda Cassellius. “The investments in our youngest learners, in our American Indian students and in our students learning English will help us to further reduce achievement gaps and prepare kids for career and college.”

The following is a summary of new education investments made this session, and the impact those investments will have on Minnesota students, families, and teachers.

Investing in Early Learning
  • Expanding Early Learning Scholarships – Governor Dayton and the Legislature invested an additional $48 million in early learning scholarships this session, bringing total funding for the FY16-17 biennium to $104 million. These funds will allow low-income families in all Minnesota counties with young children to access high quality early education and care. The Governor and Legislature also invested $3.5 million in the Parent Aware initiative, which will allow the Quality Rating System to continue to add providers.

  • Expanding Access to Head Start – Head Start promotes school readiness for low-income children by enhancing their cognitive, social, and emotional developments, and by providing their families health, educational, nutritional, and other services. Governor Dayton and the Legislature invested $10 million in Head Start this session, providing access to an additional 1,200 young learners.

  • Investing in Community Partnerships – The Governor and Legislature invested $4 million in community partnerships that will provide wrap-around services to families and children in the Northside Achievement Zone and Saint Paul Promise Neighborhood. Both programs partner with families and the community to permanently close achievement gaps.
Investing in K-12 Schools 
  • More Funding for Every School – Governor Dayton and the Legislature increased the basic per pupil funding formula by $346 million over the next two years, bringing the formula to $6,067 per pupil by 2017. This new funding will help ensure every Minnesota child receives an excellent education, and the support they need to succeed in school.

  • Helping Kids Read – The Minnesota Reading Corps connects trained tutors with students who are struggling with their literacy skills. This session, Governor Dayton and the Legislature invested an additional $3.5 million in the program, helping expand the program to serve 2,500 more students.

  • Reducing Testing Time – Governor Dayton and the Legislature placed limits on the amount of time students are required to spend on testing in school. Schools may now spend no more than 10 hours per school year testing students in grades 1 through 6 on districtwide or school-wide assessments. For students in grades 7 through 12, the limit is 11 hours. A district may exceed this limit if an agreement is reached with its teachers to do so, and public notice is provided.

  • Improving School Facilities – The Governor and Legislature invested $32 million to help school districts statewide provide important maintenance to classrooms and other school facilities.
Investing in American Indian Students and English Language Learners
  • Helping American Indian Students – Governor Dayton and the Legislature invested $17.5 million this session in schools that serve American Indian students, and Bureau of Indian Education schools. This new funding will help eligible schools develop plans to support academic achievement, decrease the dropout rate, and improve the school climate for American Indian students. This historic investment will benefit over 19,000 American Indian students across Minnesota. 

  • Supporting English Language Learners – There are over 68,000 students in Minnesota for whom English is not their first language. In 2014, Governor Dayton and the Legislature extended the number of years schools can serve these students from 5 to 6 years. This year, the Governor and Legislature invested $3 million to extend those services to a total of 7 years per student – giving them the educations and support they need to succeed in school and life.


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First Steps For Better Water Quality Start Today in Minnesota

Posted on July 01, 2015 at 9:35 AM

Work is getting underway to establish 110,000 acres of new water quality buffer strips statewide

ST. PAUL, MN – Today, the first component of one of Governor Mark Dayton’s major legislative priorities will take effect in Minnesota. Beginning Wednesday, July 1, 2015, funding to begin the implementation of the water quality buffer initiative becomes available to local Soil and Water Districts across Minnesota. Local Soil and Water Conservation Districts will begin hiring staff to provide technical assistance for Minnesotans as they implement new buffers, and help eligible landowners enroll in federal funding programs. 

“Minnesotans are united as stewards of our lakes, rivers and streams,” said Governor Dayton. “I thank Representative Paul Torkelson and Senator John Marty for their work on this very important measure. By working together, we can greatly improve the quality of our waters across our great state.”

Additional components of the law will take effect over the next several years, as farmers and landowners work to implement buffers on their properties. Buffers must be in place on all public waters by November 1, 2017. Buffers on public drainage systems will be in place by November 1, 2018. A complete timeline of when different components of the law will take effect is available on the state’s buffer initiative information website

About the Buffer Initiative
Following a series of reports highlighting a concerning decline in water quality across Minnesota, Governor Dayton and lawmakers worked throughout the legislative session with farmers, landowners, environmental advocates, and public health experts to develop a solution that will reduce runoff and improve water quality. Together, they enacted legislation that will help significantly improve water quality in Minnesota. 

The new buffer law will designate roughly 110,000 acres of land for buffer strips alongside Minnesota’s waterways. These new perennial vegetation buffers along rivers, streams, and ditches, will help filter out phosphorus, nitrogen, and sediment before it enters the water supply. With the support of local Soil and Water Conservation Districts, the new law will provide flexibility and financial assistance for landowners to install and maintain buffers, and boost compliance with buffer laws across Minnesota.

"Additional financial assistance funding is a key part of the Buffers Initiative that will accelerate clean water results in Minnesota," said John Jaschke, Director of BWSR, "As they have done for many years, local Soil and Water Conservation Districts are ready to provide landowners with trusted technical advice."

How It Works
Here is how the new law buffer law will work. Additional information about the initiative, including links to frequently asked questions, and resources for landowners, is available on the state’s buffer initiative website.
  • Financial and Technical Support – The legislation provides more than $33 million in additional financial support for landowners to install and maintain buffers on their properties. This new financial support, included in this year’s Legacy Bill, supplements other existing state and federal programs that assist farmers and landowners in establishing effective conservation practices. The legislation also provides additional resources for local Soil and Water Conservation Districts to provide technical support for landowners to help them comply with the law.

  • Fifty-Foot Buffers on All Public Waters – By November 1, 2017, the new law will require 50 foot buffers on all public waters (lakes, rivers, and streams). These new requirements will be enforced through state and local mechanisms and can be implemented quickly. 

  • Better Compliance for Public Ditches – By November 1, 2018, the new law will require 16.5-foot buffers around all public ditches. Right now, just 20 percent of public ditches are required to have a 16.5-foot buffer. By accelerating the requirements and providing better enforcement and additional support, this legislation will accomplish buffers on all public ditches. 

  • Local Requirements along Other Waters – Requirements on other waters will be set by local soil and water conservation districts to meet the needs and circumstances of individual parcels of land. These measures will be taken in consultation with local landowners, and adopted into local comprehensive water management plans approved by the Board of Water and Soil Resources. 

  • More Flexibility – Buffer widths will depend on the type of waterway each landowner is charged with protecting (depending on whether it is public water, a public ditch, or other waters). There will be exceptions included for areas covered by a road, building or other structures; areas enrolled in the Conservation Reserve Program; public or private water access or recreational use areas; and municipalities in compliance with federal and state storm water requirements.
Recent Reports Underscore Need for Action
A series of reports have highlighted a decline in water quality in Minnesota – compelling state leaders to take action this session to establish better, more effective buffer conservation efforts statewide, including:
  • Low Compliance with Existing Buffer Laws – Due to inadequate regulations and a lack of consistent enforcement, the state’s previous laws were not effective in preventing harmful runoff into lakes, rivers, and streams. In fact, recent analysis from BWSR estimates that 64 percent of all waters in the southern and western regions of Minnesota are not subject to any buffer requirements under current law. Additionally, the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) estimates that only 43 percent of rivers and streams in western and southern Minnesota currently have vegetated buffers.

  • Drinking Water Concerns – In May 2015, the Minnesota Department released the findings of the state’s annual drinking water report, which show nitrate levels in drinking water supplies are of increasing concern in Minnesota. Elevated levels of nitrate – which can lead to Blue Baby Syndrome in infants and other adverse human health effects – have caused an increasing number of Minnesota communities to install expensive nitrate treatment systems to ensure their water supplies are safe to drink. 

  • Watershed Report –The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency recently released a report that showed that that agricultural and urban runoff is contributing significantly to the impairment of Minnesota’s lakes, rivers, and streams. The impairments are caused by high levels of bacteria, nitrates and sediment, and could be prevented by better buffer strip implementation and enforcement.


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CNBC Names Minnesota “America’s Top State for Business”

Posted on June 25, 2015 at 10:50 AM

Minnesota jumped from 6th place in 2014 to top spot in 2015

ST. PAUL, MN – Minnesota is America’s Top State for Business in 2015, according to a new report released today by CNBC. Minnesota moved into the top spot this year, after placing 6th in 2014, and 15th in 2013.

CNBC’s annual study scores all 50 states on 60 measures of competitiveness, separated into 10 categories. These categories include workforce, economy, infrastructure and transportation, education, cost of living, cost of doing business, access to capital, innovation, business friendliness and quality of life. 

Minnesota received the highest overall score this year across the 10 categories, including economy, citing Minnesota’s low unemployment rate of 3.8 percent coupled with the high labor force participation rate at 70.8 percent.  Minnesota ranked third in the nation for quality of life, noting the low crime rate, clean air and water, and access to quality health care.

“The credit for our state’s economic success belongs to the people of Minnesota. We thank the businessmen and women, who chose Minnesota, and their productive employees, who made those investments successful,” said Governor Mark Dayton. “We are proud to earn this national recognition and determined to continue on our path toward future growth.”

Since 2011, the Minnesota economy has added 189,000 jobs – a 7.1 percent increase. These new jobs have been added by the growing number of business relocating to Minnesota, in addition to companies that have announced expansions within the state.

“Minnesota has been blessed with hardworking, inventive, and entrepreneurial citizens for generations. This award is a worthy recognition for their efforts,” said Lt. Governor Tina Smith. “Despite our state’s track record of strong economic growth, we must continue to work to ensure all Minnesotans are able to benefit.”

CNBC highlighted Minnesota’s workforce, citing the quality and availability of skilled workers in the state. According to the study, Minnesota’s workforce is highly educated, and the state also offers unique worker-training programs to ensure future placement in jobs.

“The CNBC ranking underscores Minnesota’s ability to offer the complete package to businesses with an emphasis on a talented, educated workforce that is encouraging growth throughout the state,” said Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development Commissioner Katie Clark Sieben. “In the coming years, we will need to continue to focus on customized training for workers in order to meet the needs of our growing businesses and sustain our position as the best state for business.”

In 2014, Minnesota tied for 12th place in the education category. This year, Minnesota placed 2nd, citing the state’s educated workers and the availability of over 200 public and private higher-education institutions that offer companies the ability to recruit talent. The study also emphasized the state’s value of the K-12 education system, including long-term funding trends.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor and Statistics, Minnesota ranks 4th in the country for the percent of the population with a high school diploma or higher at 92.4 percent, and 11th in the nation for percent of the population with a Bachelor’s Degree or higher at 33.5 percent.

In addition to the scoring in each metric, CNBC’s “America’s Top State for Business” study takes input into consideration from the National Association of Manufacturers, the Council on Competitiveness, the CNBC Global CFO Council and a wide variety of businesses and economic development organizations. 

Other Recent National Rankings for Minnesota
  • Best Place for Women – Minnesota is the best place for women according to the Institute of Women’s Policy Research

  • Best Place for Renters – Twin Cities among the best places for renters according to Nerd Wallet

  • Most Livable Place for People 50 and Older – St. Paul, Rochester, Minneapolis and Duluth all made the AARP list of the most livable places for people age 50 and older

  • Fittest in the Nation – The Minneapolis-St. Paul region ranks the 2nd fittest in the nation according to a new health index by the American College of Sports Medicine

  • World’s Top Cities for Cyclists – Minneapolis is only city in the United States to be included on a worldwide list of bike-friendly cities

  • Best State for Working Moms – Minnesota was named the 2nd best state for working moms according to WalletHub

  • Best Small Cities – Moorhead, Winona, and Mankato all rank near the top of the best small cities in America by Nerd Wallet

  • Best City Parks – Minneapolis and St. Paul tied for the title of best city parks in the Trust for Public Land’s annual ranking

  • Most Bike FriendlyForbes ranks Minneapolis as the most bike-friendly city in the United States

  • Safest Town in America – Hibbing is the safest city in America according to SafeWise, who used research and FBI crime statistics to rank the list.

  • Friendliest MetroTravel and Leisure selects Minneapolis-St. Paul at the 3rd friendliest metro in the country. 


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Governor Dayton Signs Special Session Bills into Law

Posted on June 13, 2015 at 2:40 PM

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ST. PAUL, MN – Today, Governor Mark Dayton signed all bills passed by the Legislature during the special session. The following is a statement from Governor Dayton:

“Early this morning, Minnesota legislators concluded their 2015 session. I thank them for passing the remaining budget bills, as well as Legacy and bonding bills, all of which I have signed into law. 

“Last fall, Minnesota voters chose divided political leadership for our state. This legislative session ended in that same way: with legislators sharply divided over key issues, like the optimal amounts of taxes and expenditures, social services, and transportation improvements.

“Nevertheless, legislators achieved significant progress in providing better care and education for our youngest and most vulnerable citizens: children, who were previously considered too young for structured elementary education. Minnesotans at the other end of life will also benefit from increased funding for nursing homes, personal care attendants, and other supportive services. 

“As I have noted before, a sign of true compromise is that no one is happy with it.  Many compromises had to be made during this legislative session; and many people, across the political spectrum, believe it suffered from too many missed opportunities.

“One positive result, however, is that the remaining surplus, combined with the budgeted reserve and cash flow account, has left the State with a positive balance of almost $2.5 billion. It stands in welcome contrast to the financial uncertainties of recent years.

“Legislators from both political parties have devoted countless hours to leading our state toward a better future. They, and their supportive families, have earned our gratitude.”

Governor Dayton signed the following bills into law today:
  • Chapter 1, HF 3 : This is the Jobs and Energy Bill. This bill passed 78-47 in the House and 50-14 in the Senate.

    • A Better Jobs and Energy Bill – Click here to read about improvements made to the Jobs and Energy Bill, following Governor Dayton’s May 23rd veto.

  • Chapter 2, SF 1 : This is the Legacy Bill. This bill passed 116-6 in the House and 54-10 in the Senate.

  • Chapter 3, HF1 : This is the Education Finance Bill. This bill passed 115-10 in the House and 53-12 in the Senate

    • A Better Education Bill – Click here to read about improvements made to the Education Finance Bill, following Governor Dayton’s May 23rd veto.

    • Education Bill Fact Sheet – Click here to read about the new investments included in the Education Finance Bill signed into law today by Governor Dayton.

  • Chapter 4, SF5 : This is the Agriculture, Environment, and Natural Resources Finance Bill. This bill passed 78-47 in the House and 38-29 in the Senate.

    • A Better Agriculture & Environment Bill – Click here to read about improvements made to the Agriculture, Environment, and Natural Resources Finance Bill, following Governor Dayton’s May 23rd veto.

  • Chapter 5, HF2 : This is the Bonding Bill. This bill passed 96-25 in the House and 48-18 in the Senate.

  • Chapter 6, HF 6 : This is the Technical Corrections (Revisor’s) Bill. This bill passed 125-0 in the House and 61-1 in the Senate.


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Governor Mark Dayton, Lieutenant Governor Tina Smith Visit Saint Paul Park to Talk Railway Safety

Posted on June 09, 2015 at 3:01 PM

Governor Dayton and Lt. Governor Smith met with community leaders, first responders to discuss rail accident prevention and capacity efforts

ST. PAUL, MN – Today, in response to a collision between an oil train and a semi-truck on Sunday, Governor Mark Dayton and Lieutenant Governor Tina Smith traveled to Saint Paul Park to meet with local officials and discuss the critical need for railway safety investment in the region.  

The intersection where the collision occurred was identified in a 2014 study by the Minnesota Department of Transportation as being dangerous and in need of safety improvements. Construction of an alternate access is scheduled to begin as soon as spring 2016 in order to close the crossing. 

“Minnesota’s crowded railways bring very serious threats to the safety of citizens throughout our state,” said Governor Dayton. “Unfortunately, the very limited transportation and bonding bills agreed to by House Republicans do not fund improvements in many of the most dangerous rail crossings in the state. I will continue to support investments that improve railway safety throughout Minnesota.”

Every day, trains carrying oil and other hazardous materials pass through Minnesota. These trains present real risks to public safety and our natural resources. During the 2015 legislative session, Governor Dayton proposed a railway safety funding package to strengthen Minnesota’s ability to prevent train and car collisions, and allow first responders to respond quickly and effectively in the event of a collision or derailment. By improving safety precautions and disaster preparedness, these efforts would improve the safety of Minnesotans living near railroads carrying hazardous materials.

“The recent collision in Saint Paul Park between an oil train and semi-truck underscores the continued need for rail grade crossing safety improvements statewide,” said Lt. Governor Tina Smith.  “This past session, Governor Dayton and I proposed a budget, which would have funded critical infrastructure projects and disaster preparedness initiatives. Unfortunately, little of it was enacted this spring by the Legislature.”

Minnesota has 4,444 rail route miles used by twenty different railroads, which annually move more than one trillion tons of freight through the state. Minnesota’s share of rail transportation exceeds the U.S. average by almost 30 percent. By 2030, rail traffic in Minnesota is projected to grow 25 percent to 40 percent.  

On Minnesota’s most highly traveled routes, oil trains pass through more than 683 crossings, travelling through some of Minnesota’s most populous communities. Each of these crossings increases the chance of a train or motor vehicle accident, while placing Minnesotans who must travel across the tracks at risk. Increasing oil train traffic from North Dakota has reduced rail line capacity for Minnesota businesses and led to long backups in our communities, while motorists wait for trains to pass. 

Governor Dayton’s Railway Safety Proposal
Governor Dayton developed his railway safety proposal after holding seven railway safety meetings across Minnesota, hosting a railway safety summit last fall, and conducting a statewide survey gathering the input of local community leaders. His recommendations were based on the input of Minnesotans, emergency managers and first responders, and experts at the Minnesota Department of Transportation. Governor Dayton’s proposal included:
  • Four Major Grade Separations – Governor Dayton’s bonding proposal included funding for four major grade separations in Coon Rapids, Moorhead, Prairie Island, and Willmar. Improvements at these rail crossings, which are heavily congested and considered particularly dangerous, are urgently needed and require major investments.

  • 71 Infrastructure Improvements Statewide – The Governor’s proposal funds 71 additional railway safety improvements at rail crossings across Minnesota. A comprehensive list of these projects, which were chosen by MnDOT experts based on their levels of danger and congestion. A comprehensive list of those projects is available online.

  • Better Training for First Responders – In order to adequately prepare for potential derailments or railway disasters, the Governor’s proposal funds additional training measures for first responders and emergency managers across Minnesota. Specifically, the proposal includes the construction of a new multifaceted training facility at Camp Ripley, which would simulate response scenarios related to the transportation and storage of hazardous materials, including Bakken oil. 

  • More Quiet Zones – The Governor’s proposal would provide funding to help establish new quiet zones in communities located along busy rail lines. 

  • A New Rail Office Director – The Governor’s proposal included a Rail Office Director who would position Minnesota to play a larger role in addressing freight rail service and safety issues in the state. This would allow accelerated and expanded delivery of grade crossing safety improvements, expanded rail safety inspection, and enforcement of rail safety regulations and rail planning.
Attachments:
  • FACT SHEET: A comprehensive list of the 71 statewide railway safety improvements that would be funded under the Governor’s proposal.

  • MAP: A map of the Hastings Avenue and 1st Street Crossing in Saint Paul Park.


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Minnesota Receives $38 Million in Federal Grants for Veterans Homes

Posted on May 28, 2015 at 3:02 PM

Grant will fund expansion of Minneapolis Veterans Home nursing facility

ST. PAUL, MN – Governor Mark Dayton today announced that the Minnesota Department of Veterans Affairs (MDVA) will receive a federal grant totaling $38 million for the construction of a skilled care nursing facility, and infrastructure tying the existing and future complex together at the Minneapolis Veterans Home.

“Through their service to our state and nation, Minnesota’s veterans have earned the best possible care,” said Governor Dayton. “These new federal resources, and the state’s financial commitment to these projects, will provide state-of-the-art facilities and equipment that will help ensure our veterans receive high-quality care for years to come.”

For 128 years, the Minneapolis Veterans Home has provided care to Minnesota’s veterans. Today, Governor Dayton announced the state will receive a $38 million federal grant to complete the renovation and expansion of the facility, including the construction of a modern skilled nursing facility. The project will also include a tunnel connecting all of the skilled nursing buildings on the Veterans Home campus. The Governor and Legislature provided $18.9 million of state matching funds for the project in the 2013 Jobs Bill. Construction on the third and final phase of the project will begin in May 2016.

“This federal grant will provide important updates to our 128-year-old campus and complete the three-phase campus redevelopment at the Minneapolis Veterans Home,” said Veterans Affairs Commissioner Larry Shellito. “The Minneapolis Veterans Home, and our other four Veterans Homes across the state, have bright futures thanks to investment and support from our State and Federal partners.”

While waiting for federal grant funding, the Minnesota Department of Veterans Affairs continued moving forward, earning multiple “Best in Class” ratings and approval to provide Medicare reimbursable services. Over the last year, MDVA launched the nation’s first tele-health system between a State Veterans Home and a VA Medical Center, redesigned the safety program, rolled out new memory loss programs and made significant enhancements in the area of electronic health records.

The first phase of the project, completed in 2012, included 100 private rooms designed around “neighborhoods” to offer care in a home-style atmosphere. The facility includes a greenhouse, barber and beauty shops, common areas, and a town square. Phase two is currently underway and features 100 private rooms, a commercial kitchen, exercise rooms and therapy space. Phase two is expected to be completed in early 2016.

For more information about the Minneapolis Veterans Home project, click here.


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Governor Dayton to Deliver State of the State Address on Thursday, April 9, at 7:00pm

Posted on April 08, 2015 at 10:43 AM

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Governor Mark Dayton's 2015 State of the State Address

Tomorrow night, Governor Dayton will deliver his annual State of the State Address to a joint session of the Minnesota Legislature, beginning at 7:00pm in the Chamber of the Minnesota House of Representatives.

Minnesotans can tune into Governor Dayton's Twitter page on the night of the speech to view a special livestream of the Governor’s State of the State Address. Those wishing to view the stream on their mobile device can download the Periscope application. Minnesotans will also be able to watch this stream from their computers with no special software needed.

Minnesotans can also watch or listen to Governor Dayton’s State of the State Address on the following outlets:

  • House Public Information Services: House Public Information Services will be live-streaming video of the Governor’s remarks online at this link. After the speech, video of Governor Dayton’s remarks will be posted online here.

  • PBS Stations: The Governor’s remarks will be broadcast live on PBS television stations statewide on the Minnesota Channel.

  • MPR Stations: Minnesota Public Radio will broadcast the Governor’s remarks live on affiliated radio stations statewide. The speech will also be re-broadcast at noon on Friday, April 10, 2015.

  • WCCO TV: WCCO will be live-streaming video of the Governor’s remarks on their website at this link.

  • WCCO Radio: The Governor’s remarks will be broadcast live on WCCO Radio AM830 and on their website.

  • StarTribune.com: The Star Tribune will be live-streaming video of the Governor’s remarks on their website.


Minnesotans can also follow the conversation on Facebook and Twitter using the hashtag #MnSOTS 


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Seventy-Five Railway Safety Improvements Funded in Governor’s Proposal

Posted on March 13, 2015 at 10:42 AM

Proposal would require railroads to help pay for railway safety improvements across Minnesota

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Governor Dayton is joined by local elected and public safety officials to announce his railway safety proposal.

ST. PAUL, MN – Seventy-five railway safety projects – at Minnesota’s most dangerous and congested rail crossings – would be completed statewide, if a proposal from Governor Mark Dayton is passed this session. Governor Dayton today revealed a comprehensive list of those specific projects, which were compiled by experts at the Minnesota Department of Transportation and chosen based on their levels of danger and congestion.

Governor Dayton’s railway safety proposal would invest $330 million over the next ten years in the construction of safer railroad crossings across Minnesota, and provide additional bonding dollars to fund four major grade separations in Coon Rapids, Moorhead, Prairie Island, and Willmar. The plan would implement new quiet zones in communities located along busy rail lines, provide better training for emergency managers and first responders, and hire a new Rail Office Director who would position the state to play a larger role in addressing freight rail service and safety issues throughout the state. 

If passed, Governor Dayton’s plan would also provide local governments the resources they need to respond to local infrastructure needs caused by increased railway traffic. By modernizing property taxes paid by railroads, the proposal would provide $45 million every year for cities, counties, and townships to fund their own local priority rail infrastructure improvements. A comprehensive list of how much new railway safety funding each city, county, and township would receive under the Governor’s plan is available online.

“Over the last year, I have traveled across Minnesota and seen firsthand the very serious and costly challenges that increased rail traffic have thrust upon our communities,” said Governor Dayton. “Minnesotans did not cause these disruptions; they are not responsible for the endless barrage of dangerous cargo being shipped through their communities every day. The railroads responsible for these problems have a responsibility to pay for these essential safety improvements.”

What the Proposal Would Deliver
The Governor developed his railway safety proposal after holding seven railway safety meetings across Minnesota, hosting a railway safety summit last fall, and conducting a statewide survey gathering the input of local community leaders. His recommendations are based on the input of Minnesotans, emergency managers and first responders, and experts at the Minnesota Department of Transportation. Specifically, the proposal would deliver:
  • Four Major Grade Separations – When the Governor introduces his bonding proposal later this month, it will include funding for four major grade separations in Coon Rapids, Moorhead, Prairie Island, and Willmar. Improvements at these rail crossings, which are heavily congested and considered particularly dangerous, are urgently needed and require major investments.

  • Another 71 Infrastructure Improvements Statewide – The Governor’s proposal would also fund 71 additional railway safety improvements at rail crossings across Minnesota. A comprehensive list of these projects, which were chosen by MnDOT experts based on their levels of danger and congestion. A comprehensive list of those projects is available online.

  • Better Training for First Responders – In order to adequately prepare for potential derailments or railway disasters, the Governor’s proposal would fund additional training measures for first responders and emergency managers across Minnesota. Specifically, this would include the construction of a new multifaceted training facility at Camp Ripley, which would simulate response scenarios related to the transportation and storage of hazardous materials, including Bakken oil. 

  • More Quiet Zones – The Governor’s proposal would also provide funding to help establish new quiet zones in communities located along busy rail lines. 

  • A New Rail Office Director – The proposal would hire a new Rail Office Director who would position Minnesota to play a larger role in addressing freight rail service and safety issues in the state. This would allow accelerated and expanded delivery of grade crossing safety improvements, expanded rail safety inspection, and enforcement of rail safety regulations and rail planning.

How the Proposal is Funded
The Governor’s proposed railway safety improvements would be funded through the following measures: 
  • Assessments on Class I Railroads – The proposal would implement a $33 million annual assessment on the four Class I railroads that operate in Minnesota, based on their track mileage in the state. It would be used to fund additional grade separations and crossing improvements across Minnesota.

  • State General Obligation Bonds – The Governor’s bonding bill will include funding for four major grade separation projects in Coon Rapids, Moorhead, Prairie Island, and Willmar. It will also include funding for a new railway safety training facility for first responders at Camp Ripley and funding for quiet zones.

  • Modernizing Property Taxes Paid by Railroads – Minnesota’s current railroad property tax laws have not kept pace with modern assessment practices. Modernizing railroad property taxes would expand the taxable property of railroads to include rolling stock, rail cars, trestles, and rail bridges. This would expand the tax base for communities that are now dealing with increased rail use and congestion. Property tax modernization would provide $45 million in new annual revenues for cities, counties, and townships to address their local infrastructure needs.

Building on Recent Progress
These needed improvements would build on new railway safety measures implemented last year by Governor Dayton and the Minnesota Legislature. Those efforts required railroad companies to submit disaster prevention and emergency plans to the State, increased the number of rail inspectors at MnDOT, required railroads to respond to derailments or spills of hazardous cargos within a specified timeframe, and provided additional emergency response training for local police and fire departments, and other first responders in Minnesota.

Attachments:


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Over 57,400 Children Enrolled in All-Day Kindergarten Statewide

Posted on March 12, 2015 at 11:01 AM

New data show all-day kindergarten enrollment is exceeding initial state projections

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ST. PAUL, MN – In its first year of implementation, new data from the Minnesota Department of Education shows that 57,479 students are now benefitting from the state’s all-day, every day kindergarten initiative. That number amounts to 99.6 percent of all kids enrolled in kindergarten throughout the state, and exceeds original state predictions by nearly 3,500 students. The data also shows that every public elementary school in the state – except one – are now offering free, all-day, every day kindergarten programs for their students.

“Before we made this important investment, just 54 percent of Minnesota children had access to all-day kindergarten,” said Governor Mark Dayton, who led the charge for a major investment in all-day kindergarten in 2013. “Now, during its first year of implementation, 99.6 percent of kids are getting the great start they need in classrooms across our state. This is outstanding news for our kids, and for our state’s future. I thank the teachers, administrators, school boards, parents, and legislators who made this achievement possible.”

All-day, every day kindergarten is the result of a $134 million investment made by Governor Dayton and the Minnesota Legislature in 2013. Districts were then given a year to prepare for the move from partial day to full-day programming. Many families were previously paying thousands of dollars to send their children to all-day kindergarten, sometimes as much as $2,500-$4,200. Now, because of the state’s new investments, over 57,400 children across Minnesota are attending all-day kindergarten, free of charge.

“It is amazing to see how quickly schools scaled up their kindergarten programs to offer full day classes,” Education Commissioner Brenda Cassellius said. “It truly goes to show how necessary and important this investment was for Minnesota families. These students now have more time to develop academically and socially, creating a strong foundation that will propel them forward for success in the future. Just as exciting, with every child gaining access to the same opportunity of a great first start, full day kindergarten will undoubtedly be a game changer for closing the achievement gaps in Minnesota.”

Throughout Minnesota, 57,714 children are currently enrolled in a kindergarten program with 57,479 of those students being served at a full day, every day site. Parents can opt out of enrolling their child in a full-day program, which accounts for the remaining 238 students enrolled in partial day programs.

“Thanks to the leadership of Governor Dayton and the Minnesota Legislature, thousands of our youngest learners are now benefitting from all-day Kindergarten,” said Lt. Governor Tina Smith. “High-impact investments like all-day kindergarten and early learning initiatives are helping close Minnesota’s achievement gap, and creating brighter futures for all of our students.”

This year, Governor Dayton is working to further his commitment to early learning by investing $347 million in statewide, all-day preschool for every four-year-old in Minnesota. This proposal, and other proposed investments in early learning proposed by Governor Dayton, would build on the success of all-day kindergarten and help ensure every child gets a great start, and has access to an excellent education.


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Over 600 Road and Bridge Improvements Funded by Governor’s Proposal

Posted on February 17, 2015 at 1:42 PM
Categories: Transportation, Budget

2,200 miles of roadways and 330 bridges would be repaired or replaced statewide

Governor Dayton and Transportation Comissioner Zelle announce the more than 600 projects that would be funded under the Governor's plan

Governor Dayton and Transportation Comissioner Zelle announce the more than 600 projects that would be funded under the Governor's plan

ST. PAUL, MN – Governor Mark Dayton and Transportation Commissioner Charlie Zelle today released a detailed list of more than 600 road and bridge improvements that would be completed if the Legislature passes the Governor’s proposed investments in transportation. The comprehensive list, sorted by county, details the more than 2,200 miles of state roadways and 330 bridges that would be repaired, replaced, or expanded over the next ten years under the Governor’s proposal.

“Minnesotans rely on these roads and bridges every day to get to work, bring their kids to school, and get their goods to market,” said Governor Dayton. “If we fail to act, the condition of these roads and bridges will only get worse. I urge all Minnesotans to review this list of projects and decide for themselves whether these investments are worth making.”

Road and bridge improvements funded by the Governor’s proposal are urgently needed. Right now, more than half of Minnesota’s roads are more than 50 years old, and 40 percent of the state’s bridges are more than 40 years old. In just the next three years alone, one in five Minnesota roads will pass their useful life. And in the next ten years, nearly 40 percent of our roads will be past their useful life.

“After decades of decline, Governor Dayton’s transportation proposal would make needed investments in roads and bridges across Minnesota,” said Commissioner Zelle. “The Governor’s proposal would help reduce travel times, improve safety, and build a modern transportation system that would meet the needs of our state’s growing population and economy.” 

Projects included in the list released today are based on the recommendations of the Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT). In selecting pavement and bridge improvements, MnDOT gave priority to projects that would extend the life of roadways and bridges beyond the current 20-year State Highway Investment Plan (MnSHIP). MnDOT used the following criteria to select the projects included in the list released today:

  • Fixing Roads in Urgent Need of Repair – Priority was given to projects that would reduce the total miles of roadway statewide that have no remaining service life (meaning they are in very poor condition, and in need of repair). Over the next ten years, roughly 4,370 miles of roadway on the state system will have zero remaining service life.

  • Making Longer-Term Fixes on Currently-Planned Projects – Instead of just making temporary fixes that would need to be repaired again in just a few years, this list of projects includes upgrades of currently-planned projects to make sure those repairs last longer, and would extend the useful life of more Minnesota roadways.

  • Preventing Problems Before They Happen – Projects were included in the list released today that would provide for preventive maintenance that would reduce the need to do longer-term work in the near future. By preventing further deterioration, these new investments would forego the need to perform costlier fixes down the road.

  • Strategic Expansion – The list also includes projects that make targeted investments in key freight routes across Minnesota that are important for business expansions, job creation, and economic development.
    The list of projects released today includes $1.6 billion in new Corridors of Commerce funding that would be provided under the Governor’s proposal. These funds would be used specifically on projects that would strengthen Minnesota’s transportation system by adding capacity, reducing congestion, and improving the movement of freight across Minnesota.

  • Local road improvement projects – funded with help from the state, but chosen by local governments – are not included on the list released today. Over 40 percent of the new revenues raised in the Governor’s proposal ($2.356 billion) would be directed to cities, counties, and townships; giving local leaders the resources and flexibility to repair and replace roads and bridges statewide. These new investments would add hundreds of additional road and bridge improvements in communities across Minnesota.

About Governor Dayton’s Transportation Proposal 
Several weeks ago, Governor Dayton proposed a straightforward, honest solution to fix Minnesota’s aging transportation systems. The Governor’s plan would invest $6 billion over the next ten years to address the state’s highway funding deficit, invest $2.356 billion in local government transportation projects, and provide $2.92 billion for Metro and Greater Minnesota transit systems. To learn more about his proposal, click on the links below:

List of Projects – Review the list of projects – released today by the Governor and MnDOT – that would be completed over the next ten years if the Governor’s transportation proposal is passed

News Release – Read the news release from the Governor’s transportation proposal announcement

How it Works – Read about how the plan would be funded

Fact Sheet – Get all the facts on the challenges facing our transportation system, and how the Governor’s proposed investments would address those challenges

Local Funding Increases – Learn how much funding each city and county would receive under the Governor’s transportation proposal 

Maps – Take a look at the transportation projects that would be funded, by region





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