In our final bite on Governor Mark Dayton’s budget proposal, we look at how he seeks to strengthen the state’s economy by increasing workforce training opportunities, improving housing options and employment for people with mental illness, and investing in a better transit system.
Dayton invests in basic skills education and specialized training so that Minnesotans can enter high-demand fields. To do this, Dayton proposes to refocus two existing grant programs to form Pathways to Prosperity, a new career pathways program. Between general and workforce development funds, Pathways to Prosperity would receive $12 million for the FY 2016-17 biennium.
The governor also proposes $2 million in FY 2016-17 to support Minnesotans with severe mental illness, who experience higher rates of unemployment and poverty than other Minnesotans, to find stable jobs through Individual Placement and Supports. Policymakers expanded these services in FY 2014-15 with one-time funding; Dayton’s proposed increase will maintain that expansion.
Dayton also seeks important investments in supportive housing. He proposes $2.5 million in FY 2016-17 in funding for Bridges, which provides rental assistance to those struggling with mental illness. Bridges currently has a waiting list of about 1,300 households, and the administration estimates that the increased funding will help 200 of those households.
Dayton’s proposal also proposes $2.2 billion in revenues in FY 2016-17 dedicated to our state’s transportation needs, which would come from a mix of gas, vehicle registration and local sales taxes. As part of a broad transportation proposal, the governor includes several investments in transit. Dayton proposes $10 million in FY 2016-17 to increase bus service in greater Minnesota, including more morning and evening service hours and multi-county services. The $420 million of local sales taxes proposed in the governor’s budget would fund transit in the Twin Cities metro area, including provisions such as expanding existing bus operations by 27 percent, funding additional rapid bus lines, improving transit shelters, and meeting requirements for transitways like the Blue and Green light rail lines.
Effective transit systems are critical to our state’s economic health. Because transit can provide access to good jobs, improvements to our transit lines should be done with low- and moderate-income workers in mind.