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PSN on June 4, 2007 - 6:23am
Conversely, Minnesota showed how a governor in the pocket of monied interests can undermine a bold, progressive vision by state legislative leaders.
As we highlighted a few weeks ago, Minnesota legislators passed a bold tax reform plan that would have funded crucial social services and cut property taxes for 90% of the state residents, paid for by raising income taxes on the wealthiest 28,000 taxpayers in the state, only to see it vetoed by Minnesota's Governor Tim Pawlenty.
Similarly, in a state that has seen no increase in money for transit since 1988, a plan for new investments in state transportation funded by a gas tax increase and new vehicle fees was also vetoed by the Governor.
This left the legislature to enact a more bare-bones budget for the state's needs. Despite the budgetary constraints, the legislature enacted a few key initiatives:
- School spending was expanded, particularly for early childhood education, although an initial goal of funding all-day kindergarten for all children will have to wait.
- While the goal of covering all kids was not possible, the state did provide funding to expand health care coverage to over 50,000 uninsured children and adults over the next four years. This was combined with investments in uniform billing and electronic medical records systems to hold down costs.
Where Minnesota made the largest gains was in Clean Energy programs:
- The marquee victory was establishment of the most aggressive renewable energy mandate in the country: a requirement that by 2025 all utilities in the state get a quarter of their energy from renewable sources and that, by 2020, the largest state utility achieve 30% renewable energy, with 25% coming from wind power
- The state also established a long-range goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 80 percent by 2050.
- Lawmakers created a statewide program for collecting and recycling computers, television and other electronic waste.
A respectable year for Minnesota, but one far short of the vision of the legislative leaders thwarted by the Governor's vetoes.