The final week of April has been a busy one for the Minnesota Legislature. On Thursday, after hours of testimony, the Senate passed its $489 million budget bill. This bill addresses key investments in all budget areas – from education, transportation, health and human services, public safety and more. I am proud to say I’ve worked hard on many aspects of this bill and can safely say this bill will do a lot of good for the people of Minnesota.
One of the areas I’m most proud of is the $100.5 million education section. Around $25 million is dedicated in this year’s budget bill to high-quality, voluntary pre-K for Minnesota 4-year-olds. The funding in our bill, which increases to $75 million in the 2018-2019 biennium will serve just under 4,000 Minnesota 4-year-olds next year. The benefits of pre-K programming are becoming increasingly clear as a necessary tool to closing the state’s achievement gap and ensuring all kids arrive prepared on the first day of kindergarten.
I’m also proud of my colleagues in our investment of $91 million to equity proposals aimed at ending our state’s disparity gap. Many people in District 36 could benefit from these proposals – which include some of the following commitments:
- DEED Youth at Work Grant Program: $8 million. Investing in programs to help young people gain work skills and job experience.
- Emerging Entrepreneurs Fund: $6 million. This money helps small businesses owned by minorities, women, veterans or persons with disabilities or low-income areas – access to loans and business development services.
- Pathways to Prosperity Program: $5.1 million. Grant money dedicated to education and experiential learning opportunities for teens and young adults that lead to careers in construction.
- Business Development and Assistance Programs: $5.05 million. Invests in statewide services to help entrepreneurs that have the potential to create jobs for unemployed and underemployed people, with a focus on minority owned businesses.
This budget bill also makes commitments to economic development programs that our communities have directly benefited from. We passed a bill that includes $2.5 million for the newly named Minnesota Initiative Program which awards grants to nonprofit corporations to fund loans to businesses owned by minority or low-income persons or women. We also invested nearly $2 million in several programs that help foster workforce development in communities across the state. Finally, it includes several housing appropriations including $1 million to establish a grant program to service women and children in emerging communities who are displaced because of violence.
This session we are prioritizing investments that help build an economy that works for everyone in Minnesota, not just the wealthy few. This means helping our youngest learners, recent immigrants, small business owners and every day working Minnesotans. However, there remains a lot of work left to do – including passing a transportation bill, tax bill and a bonding bill – all of which could have direct impacts on the people of Champlin, Brooklyn Park and Coon Rapids.