For the last couple of days Gov. Mark Dayton has been trying to focus attention on the issues he thinks should be Minnesota's priorities for the next couple years. But he keeps upstaging himself with his own health issues.
But in between those two events, Dayton was at the Capitol Tuesday morning to drop off the $45.8 billion budget he thinks should be Minnesota's blueprint for the next two years.
Our current budget, which runs through the end of June, spends $41.5 billion, so Dayton's plan increases that by nearly 10 percent. Here's a look at some of what's in it:
More money for education
Dayton says his budget would increase spending on Minnesota's schoolchildren by $609 million.
All of Dayton's budgets have increased state money for public schools but he says the state still hasn't made up for cutbacks that happened in the previous decade.
Some of the additional money ($75 million) would be used to help families pay for pre-school.
For years now, the DFL governor and Republican lawmakers have said Minnesota needs to fix up its roads but they can't agree on a plan for doing that.
Dayton is bringing back his plan from last year, which uses a gas tax increase to raise $6 billion over ten years. Republicans oppose any tax increase and say money for road repairs can be raised by finding efficiencies in the Transportation Department and shifting money from elsewhere in the budget.
Dayton also wants some of the transportation money to go toward public transit improvements, which the GOP does not want.
The first law Dayton signed this year was a bill that cut state taxes by $21 million. He's proposing another $280 million in cuts.
One of the big ones would expand tax breaks for families paying for child care. The cost – and scarcity – of child care is becoming more of an issue for businesses, with Forum News Service reporting last month on people who find it cheaper to quit their jobs and care for their kids themselves.
Health insurance changes
Minnesotans who buy individual health insurance coverage are paying way more for it this year. At least 50 percent more, sometimes 67 percent. Besides giving some state aid to people who don't qualify for federal subsidies, Minnesota is also looking for ways to rein in the future cost of individual insurance.
Dayton has a plan to make insurance more affordable by expanding the state-run MinnesotaCare program.
What happens now?
The Legislature has four months to pass a budget that Dayton will agree to sign, otherwise the state would run out of money and face a government shutdown this summer.
With Republicans now in control of both the Senate and House, you can be sure the budget they eventually pass will look very different than what Dayton proposed Tuesday.
Reacting to Dayton's budget plan, Paul Gazelka, who leads Senate Republicans, said: “The old mindset is that higher taxes, unsustainable spending increases, and more people on government-run healthcare will solve everything. Republicans want to try a new approach: patient-centered healthcare, common sense budgeting, and lower taxes,” the Pioneer Press reports.