Suburban voters hold the key on what party will control the governorship and the Legislature in 2014.
The Republican Party has an uphill climb among suburban voters because, by and large, suburban interests, namely the education package, have been positively received.
The cornerstone of most communities is the private and public school systems. Educating their children is why many families move to the suburban areas.
Last session, the Legislature, with the DFL Party in control, strengthened the public school system. Notably, the Legislature appropriated $134 million so that every parent would have the opportunity to send their child to all-day, every-day kindergarten starting this fall, at no extra charge. While some school leaders may moan about the need for kindergarten classrooms, the public in general welcomes this expense.
Furthermore, the Legislature appropriated $44 million for 10,000 pre-kindergarten scholarships.
In addition, the Legislature set a schedule of providing more funds for special education, helping local districts subsidize this expensive but necessary education.
Finally, the Legislature provided $234 million more for K-12 education, and it paid back all of the money owed local school districts that the state withheld during the rough recessionary times.
Suburban voters generally are pleased with the final local tax levies, which, in general, are flat or lower due in part to the new local government aid legislated last session.
While suburban legislators had hoped for more reductions in the property taxes, local officials and policymakers used the additional aid for catch-up on all kinds of things, including some raises in pay for the staff.
Fewer changes in the tax rate resonate positively with most voters in the suburbs.
There’s also an ease in the suburban area because unemployment in Minnesota is well below the national average and tax collections are up, making projections of a surplus possible.
Even with the fuss over the Affordable Health Care Act and MNsure, it’s doubtful this will change the majority of minds in the suburbs.
Time will tell how suburban voters will swing politically, but I’m betting on their voting for DFL control of the Legislature, re-election of Gov. Mark Dayton, re-election of Sen. Al Franken, election of Tom Emmer for 6th District Congress and re-election of 1st District Congressman Tim Walz, 2nd District Congressman John Kline, 3rd District Congressman Erik Paulsen and 8th District Congressman Rick Nolan.
Don Heinzman is a columnist for ECM Publishers and a member of the ECM Editorial Board.