Bipartisan Minnesota Senate group sets three priorities
ST. PAUL -- A 2-year-old caucus that brings together Republican and Democratic Minnesota senators Wednesday offered general support to a trio of issues, but avoided getting specific or delving into the Legislature's most controversial issues.
ST. PAUL - A 2-year-old caucus that brings together Republican and Democratic Minnesota senators Wednesday offered general support to a trio of issues, but avoided getting specific or delving into the Legislature’s most controversial issues.
The 23-member Purple Caucus, so named because it combines “blue” Democrats and “red” Republicans, announced it supports:
* More money going to the per-pupil school funding formula while reducing mandates the state places on schools but does not fund.
* Adding dedicated funding to transportation, focusing on “core infrastructure” such as roads and bridges.
* Quickly passing bills to reduce child abuse.
It was the first priority list released by the caucus co-chaired by Sens. Roger Reinert, D-Duluth, and Jeremy Miller, R-Winona.
Reinert said the most important accomplishment of the Purple Caucus is giving members of the two major parties a chance to build relationships.
“We acknowledge that it’s conflict and strife that make headlines,” Reinert said. “But what the caucus has done over the last few years is significant.”
However, the caucus is not ready to tackle controversial issues, Reinert and Miller said.
“Do we have all the details?” Reinert asked. “No, we are not there yet.”
Caucus member Sen. Bill Weber, R-Luverne, said it makes sense to use some of the state’s $1.9 billion surplus to “jump start” road repair. However, Reinert said that is not a Purple Caucus position.
Weber also said that the existing per-gallon gasoline tax needs to be replaced as vehicles get better mileage. Reinert said that the Purple Caucus agrees, but so far has no solution.
Sen. Susan Kent, D-Woodbury, said that while the caucus emphasizes bridge and road repair for transportation funding, money also is needed for other transportation-related programs such as transit.
The third caucus priority is quick action on a series of bills to improve the state’s response to child maltreatment reports, Sen. Julie Rosen, R-Vernon Center, said.
Rosen said that the Purple Caucus brings together Republicans and Democrats as they deal with touchy issues. “Nine times out of 10, we are working together.”