It's July! Legislative Update
Who would have thought we’d be saying it’s chilly in July?
That chill serves as a reminder to me about how the last two years in the legislature was as radically different from the past as our weather today is different from last week’s. Different because we worked to honestly balance the budget, which hadn’t been done in more than a decade. Different because the government didn’t stall and shut down. Instead, we started late and finished early.
I’m happy to report that Minnesota, as a whole, is better off. That’s what our government was designed by our forefathers to do – serve the whole, not a few. I learned early that more gets done for citizens when lawmakers come together. That’s why I worked so hard to find as much common ground as possible with all of my colleagues – regardless of their party.
Unfortunately, for too long, we had a government that was focused on serving only the few. As a result, our middle class family members have been forced to work multiple jobs, use food shelves and state assistance so they can eat and burdened with college debt.
In 2013 and 2014 we took a big step toward a return to the days when government served all Minnesotans. Our goal was and remains creating a state where a family can feed their kids, send them to college and even afford go on a vacation with the wages they earn.
Yes, the truth is in 2013 we did raise some taxes. The legislature faced a $627 million deficit and we owed our schools nearly $1 billion. We raised taxes, but largely on the wealthiest 2% of income earners ($250,000 in taxable income) – and by closing corporate tax loopholes.
By doing that, we eliminated the deficit and made new investments to grow the middle class, such as providing all-day Kindergarten for every child, freezing tuition for college students, boosting property tax refunds for homeowners and renters as well as providing incentives for business expansions.
When my daughter was in kindergarten, I had to put it on my credit card. Now no family will have to go further into debt to give their children a good start on an education.
We also increased funding for local schools by $17.5 million and paid back all of the money that was borrowed from our local schools by previous legislatures to balance the books.
Through the Women’s Economic Security Act, we took action to promote equal pay for equal work, enhance protections for victims of domestic violence, strengthen workplace protections for women – including pregnant women and new mothers, and help women learn skills in high-wage jobs where women are underrepresented.
Minnesota’s has experienced a reversal of fortunes. Our economy is humming. You don’t have to take my word for it. Look at the numbers:
· 154,300 – Since January 2011, the state has gained 154,300 jobs – regaining all the jobs that were lost during the Great Recession, and adding thousands more.
· 7 years – At 4.6%, Minnesota’s unemployment rate is at its lowest point since 2007 (seven years ago).
· 2.8 million – Current employment in Minnesota stands at 2,817,000; that means there are more jobs in Minnesota than ever before.
Minneapolis/St. Paul had the lowest unemployment rate among all large U.S. metropolitan areas in May 2014. Minnesota has the 10th lowest unemployment rate in the nation.
Forbes Magazine named Minnesota the 3rd-best state in the nation to make a living in 2014 (up from 6th in 2013). The study considered average salary, cost of living, employment rate, and workplace conditions for each state in the nation. This month, CNBC named Minnesota the 6th-best state in the nation to do business. We rank fifth in best overall economy in the nation and fifth in infrastructure. The accounting and analysis firm KPMG International ranks the Twin Cities second nationally and eighth internationally for business tax structure.
We chose progress over gridlock, and all of us are better for it.
I look forward to visiting with you this summer and fall to talk more about how we can keep Minnesota moving forward.