On Earth Day this year it is especially noticeable how polar our planet can be. Unseasonable temperatures last year gave way to one of the wettest, coldest, and longest, springs this year. While this could be interpreted as Mother Nature’s cruelty, it’s more a sign of our planet’s fragility.
While the MPCA stresses “Every day is Earth Day”, April 22 is the one time a year that everyone should take notice of our environment. For those hoping to celebrate proactively, the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency has 5 ways you can go a little greener this year.
An estimated 1.3 million Minnesotans will benefit from legislation recently signed into law by Governor Mark Dayton, including nearly 300,000 Minnesotans who are currently uninsured. The bill establishes a new marketplace where Minnesotans can choose quality, affordable health coverage, and will save Minnesota families and businesses an estimated $1 billion in health care costs by 2016. Explore the infographic below to learn how the new MNsure marketplace will benefit Minnesota.
Minnesota state agencies are eliminating the use of a harmful chemical in their offices found in several household cleaning products. Through Executive Order by Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton in April, 2011, all state agencies will no longer purchase hand soaps and dish and laundry cleaning products that contain triclosan by June of this year. State agencies are required to implement plans to reduce pollution and toxics, increase energy efficiency, and conserve resources.
The Interagency Pollution Prevention Advisory Team (IPPAT) has the ability make changes to the Model Sustainability Plan within Governor Dayton’s Executive Order 11-13. The state recently developed contracts for hand soap and dish and laundry cleaning products that are triclosan-free. In some situations, uses of triclosan-containing products may be allowed in medical or other specific settings.
Triclosan is antibiotic resistant and causes health and environmental problems. It is an ingredient in products such as hand soap, toothpaste, cleaning products, fabric, toys, kitchenware and industrial pesticides. There is no evidence that triclosan provides any benefit over washing with regular soap and water. Triclosan-free products are readily available in many stores.
“By purchasing items without triclosan, state agencies are doing their part to keep this harmful chemical out of Minnesota waters,” said Cathy Moeger, sustainability manager at the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency.
Today, Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak, St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman, and Metropolitan Council Chair Sue Haigh were joined by a group of mayors and county commissioners at a Capitol news conference urging legislators to support Governor Mark Dayton’s proposal to increase Minnesota’s investment in transit.
Joining Rybak, Coleman, and Haigh were Hennepin County Commissioner Peter McLaughlin, Eagan Mayor Mike Maguire, West St. Paul Mayor John Zanmiller, Shakopee Mayor Brad Tabke, Savage Mayor Janet Williams, and Golden Valley Mayor Shep Harris. In their words, Governor Dayton’s transit plan: "would create a 21st century transit system in Minnesota, which is critical for job creation, economic prosperity and our ability to be globally competitive."
This afternoon, Office of Higher Education Director Larry Pogemiller will meet with college students in Winona to discuss student debt, and Governor Dayton’s plan to increase higher education funding – including $80 million in direct financial aid to students. The governor’s proposed investment in the Minnesota State Grant Program would help make college more affordable students like Rahel Theodros. Under the governor’s plan, Rahel would receive an additional $1,200 in direct student aid. More information about Rahel’s story is attached and below.
Later today, Human Services Commissioner Lucinda Jesson will visit with hospital administrators and medical professionals in St. Cloud. Commissioner Jesson will discuss health care investments in Governor Dayton’s budget proposal, and other strategies to reform Minnesota’s health care system.
In the News
Winona Daily News
William Mann: Budget proposal helps make college possible for some
As the president of Saint Mary’s University, one of the three institutions of higher education that call Winona home, I am compelled to speak for our students and families and commend Gov. Mark Dayton for making quality, affordable college education a priority in his most recent budget proposal.
Particularly meaningful among the priorities he has laid out is a 25 percent increase in funding for the Minnesota State Grant program. The state grant is a need-based state award which offers low- and middle-class students at Minnesota colleges or universities an annually renewable grant for tuition, books or living expenses while attending college. The program benefits students attending both public and private institutions of higher education.
The proposed increase to the state grant would help even more low- and middle-class families pay for college. According to the state Minnesota Office of Higher Education, current grant recipients would see their grants increase by an average of $300 per year. And 5,000 additional students would become eligible to receive grants. Many of these newly eligible recipients come from middle-class families that earn $50,000 or more per year and are ineligible for the federal Pell Grant.
At a news conference this morning, St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman, St. Cloud Mayor Dave Kleis, Richfield Mayor Debbie Goettel, Circle Pines Mayor Dave Bartholomay, and other Minnesota mayors urged legislators to pass Governor Dayton’s plan to stabilize local government aid and deliver property tax relief to Minnesota homeowners and businesses.
Over the last ten years, property taxes have gone up 86 percent, placing a huge burden on the middle class. The governor’s plan would deliver $1.4 billion in direct property tax relief to homeowners, increase aid to cities and counties by $120 million over the next two years. Businesses would also benefit from Governor Dayton’s plan. His budget freezes state property taxes for all businesses and cuts state business property taxes by 3.6 percent, or over $120 million through 2017. More information about these measures is outlined below.
Today in Duluth, DEED Commissioner Katie Clark Sieben and Duluth Mayor Don Ness held a news conference to discuss Governor Dayton’s proposed $30 million investment in the Minnesota Investment Fund (MIF).
MIF is one of the state’s key job creation tools. It helps encourage Minnesota firms that have options outside of the state to expand here, and provides incentives for businesses outside Minnesota to locate in our state. In recent years, MIF sustained an 86 percent budget cut which severely limited its impact in creating and retaining Minnesota jobs. The governor’s proposed reinvestment in the program will help create tens of thousands of jobs and leverage an estimated $990 million in private investment. More information about MIF is included below.
For additional details about the Governor’s budget, visit http://mn.gov/governor/budget/toolkit and follow the conversation on Twitter at #BetterMN.
In the News
Wadena Pioneer Journal
Minnesota expands health care for poor
Another 35,000 poor Minnesotans will get health care under a bill Gov. Mark Dayton signed Tuesday. The bill expands Medical Assistance, the state’s Medicaid program. The federally funded expansion would save $129 million in the next two-year budget, supporters say.
“Minnesotans who will be covered by this legislation desperately need better-quality health care,” Dayton said. “Instead of taking their health crises to emergency rooms, thousands of low-income children, families and individuals will be able to see doctors sooner and live healthier lives.”
State Rep. Tom Huntley added: “This legislation allows us to cover more Minnesotans with health insurance and at the same time get more bang for our buck for Minnesota taxpayers.”
The senior citizen advocacy group AARP praised the action. “We represent thousands of consumers who have either gone without health care for years because they didn’t qualify for coverage or have lost their health insurance during the economic downturn; they will benefit greatly from this expansion,” AARP Minnesota Director Michele Kimball said.
Children’s Mental Health Services
In order to help all our children achieve success in school and life, Minnesota must provide additional funding to improve access to mental health support and counseling for Minnesota kids. The Governor’s budget invests $7.4 million to expand school-linked mental health grants, doubling the number of Minnesota schools that can offer essential mental health services to students while they are at school. An estimated 13,900 students would gain access to these mental health services annually by 2017.
Having a child that requires mental health services can be difficult on their families. It is necessary to provide support for these students and families at home. The Governor’s budget would provide funds for an initiative to teach parents and siblings skills that will help them support a child’s mental health treatment at home, in addition to counseling.
A growing number of Minnesota kids have been diagnosed with Autism in the past few years. The Governor’s budget would expand access to quality treatment and services to help kids with Autism improve their communication skills and increase social interaction at a critical time in their development. About 440 kids would gain access to these treatments and services by 2014 and 880 kids would gain coverage each year starting in 2015.
Today in the News
Don't tell Wendy Brown that a business can't charge a sales tax and survive. She's been collecting the tax every time she gives a Schnauzer or a golden doodle a shampoo and a clip at her shop in south Minneapolis. So to her, Gov. Mark Dayton's proposal to lower the tax rate and spread it to a wider variety of businesses -- such as hair salons for humans -- is about fairness.
"I'm just surprised that hair salons have not been taxed," said Brown, owner since 1976 of Wendy's Doghouse, a pet grooming shop a few blocks west of the Minnehaha Dog Park. "I've been paying sales tax forever."
"The lines have been drawn over the years, and they've been relatively arbitrary," said Myron Frans, commissioner of the Minnesota Department of Revenue. "There's some people that say the rationale is simply, it depends on who was in the room when the bill was written."
"It's really silly that we've narrowed our sales tax so much," said Wade Vitalis, owner of the Drive-In Restaurant in Taylors Falls (closed for the winter) and Gransburg, Wis. Vitalis has been collecting sales tax for 26 years, adding it to the price of each patty melt and butterscotch malt. When businesses argue that they wouldn't be able to handle it and still prosper, he doesn't buy it.
"I don't have a lot of sympathy for that argument," he said. "If you can't figure out how to do it, someone will, because this is America."
Minnesota Public Radio
Dayton wants to boost funding for English language learning
CHASKA, Minn. — In hopes of boosting student achievement, Gov. Mark Dayton wants to boost funding for the state's English language learning programs by about $4.5 million a year, a 12 percent increase over current levels.
The governor's proposal is aimed at helping the 65,000 students in Minnesota for whom English is not a first language.
The state spends $40 million a year helping those students learn English, while they also study math, reading, writing, and other subjects.
Around the State
This week, cabinet level commissioners continued bringing the governor’s budget proposal to the people of Minnesota. Yesterday, Office of Higher Education Director Larry Pogemiller visited with college students in Moorhead, discussing Governor Dayton’s proposed investments in student financial aid. Today, Department of Human Services Commissioner Lucinda Jesson is in Duluth with Lt. Governor Yvonne Prettner Solon to discuss the governor’s proposed investments in children’s mental health. The governor’s cabinet will continue traveling across Minnesota next week, holding conversations with Minnesotans about Governor Dayton’s Budget for a Better Minnesota.