Increased funding for K-12 education, more dedicated funding for transportation and enhanced protections for children top the priority list for a bipartisan group of Minnesota senators.
Members of the Purple Caucus unveiled the group’s list of legislative priorities today during a news conference. The caucus boasts 23 members — both Democrats and Republicans. It was launched two years ago by Sen. Jeremy Miller, R-Winona, and Sen. Roger Reinert, DFL-Duluth. Miller said he was frustrated by the partisanship in St. Paul.
“My biggest disappointment after being elected was the extreme partisanship, the bickering back and forth, the finger pointing, the blaming,” Miller said. “That’s why I’m really excited about the Purple Caucus and the momentum that we’ve had and how far we’ve come over the last couple of years.”
The caucus is focused on supporting three major principles. The first is an increase in the funding formula for K-12 schools coupled with a reduction in unfunded mandates. Purple Caucus member Carla Nelson, R-Rochester, said it’s critical that districts be given the flexibility to use state dollars as they see fit.
“Local school boards, local leaders and those in the communities best know what the challenges are and the barriers are and also the solutions for those issues,” Nelson said.
The caucus also supports increasing dedicated funding for transportation with the focus being initially on core infrastructure, such as roads and bridges. The group does leave open the idea of also funding transit options. Reinert said the group does not have a specific funding proposal its advocating. But he said there is a sense among members that continuing to rely primarily on the gas tax is not a long-term solution since cars are becoming more fuel efficient.
The caucus also supports legislation to enhance child protection.
While the Purple Caucus’ agenda doesn’t include details or specifics, Reinert said it is still significant because it highlights principles that Democrats and Republicans in the Senate can get behind.
“We are going to push these principles within committees and within our individual caucuses,” Reinert said. “The Senate is a body of 67 and roughly a third of that is a participant in the caucus.”