Thissen: ‘We could have done much better’

Published 9:58 am Friday, May 29, 2015

Minority leader says little was passed for greater Minnesota

A session with many missed chances.

That’s how Minnesota House Minority Leader Paul Thissen, DFL-Minneapolis, described the most recent regular legislative session on Thursday during a brief stop in Albert Lea.

Paul Thissen

Paul Thissen

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Thissen said he is traveling around the state to talk about the outcome thus far with the state budget, and he is hopeful more can be done in a special session, the date of which has not yet been set.

Coming into the session with close to a $2 billion surplus, he said it was disappointing the Legislature did not get everything done and take the opportunity to pass comprehensive transportation and tax bills, along with bills to increase education funding.

“In light of the huge opportunity we had, we could have done much better,” Thissen said.

Without a tax bill, he said there is no tax relief for small businesses, farmers or the middle class.

Though it had earlier been deemed the session for transportation, he said there was not a willingness by House Republican leadership to compromise on the gas tax issue, though Thissen noted he thinks DFLers will agree to coming down some from a 16-cents per gallon gas tax.

Regarding education, he said he thinks the education bill could have provided more to K-12 public schools, while at the same time providing money for pre-K efforts as well.

“Within the context of what our historical context has been, I think we have the money to do both,” he said.

The education bill was vetoed by Gov. Mark Dayton because it lacked funding for pre-K.

“I do think the governor’s right to make the next big step in education which is early childhood,” Thissen said.

He said focusing on early childhood is where the state can get the most “bang for its buck.”

Regarding Greater Minnesota concerns, he said there was little put into broadband Internet and there is no new investment in workforce housing.

The few positives he identified was child protection work and changes in nursing homes, though other health care settings such as assisted living and home health care have not been addressed.

He anticipates the Legacy bill to get passed during the special session and said he hoped a bonding bill between $300 million and $400 million would pass for “nuts and bolts” projects.

He said he hopes there will be more public transparency as the process continues.