The new budget is investing in what we know works: early childhood education scholarships and for the first time ever, fully funding all-day kindergarten for every Minnesota child.
After a decade of shifts and disinvestment, we invested in our K-12 schools to help lower class sizes and improve student achievement. And we have finally paid back the money borrowed from our schools by previous legislatures.
The budget also included two education levy equalization measures I chief authored: a statewide general education levy and a provision that directs additional state aid to districts that have either no levy or an ineffective one. This has had an immediate, positive impact for our local schools.
A high-quality education system will produce the well-educated workforce that we need to have economic success. We need to build on the progress of the “Education Session” and continuing work toward building the world’s best workforce.
Jobs and the Economy
The new state budget makes $100 million in new investments to spur middle-class job creation, including funding for the Minnesota Investment Fund, more job training, workforce development and small business loans and grants to attract new businesses and expand current employers. Through my legislation to cut the Unemployment Insurance Tax, we also passed one of the largest business tax cuts in Minnesota history.
In 2014, we focused specifically on Greater Minnesota, passing a number of job creation measures, including $20 million in grants to expand broadband access throughout Greater Minnesota. In today’s global economy, not having access to high-speed internet hurts our families, education, jobs, and businesses.
The budget also includes legislation I authored providing innovation vouchers to help small and mid-sized manufacturers grow.This pilot program would allow small and midsized companies to purchase expertise and services from universities, research institutions, and consulting firms like Enterprise Minnesota that can help them improve their products, implement new technologies, and achieve growth.
Finally, we enacted the Women’s Economic Security Act, which aims to close the gender pay gap, strengthen workplace protections and flexibility for pregnant mothers, and expand employment opportunities for women in high-wage, high-demand professions. Women deserve equal pay and they deserve workplace protections. When women succeed our state succeeds.
Protecting Rural Values and the Vulnerable
Our budget also includes $178 million in direct property tax relief through the expanded Homeowner Credit Refund and Renter’s Credit. Property taxes have nearly doubled since 2002 — with the brunt of those increases falling on Greater Minnesota — placing a huge burden on homeowners, renters, farmers, and businesses. And in 2011, the Homestead Credit was repealed, contributing in part to a $365 million increase in property taxes.
Thanks to the direct relief we passed, property taxes are projected to decrease statewide for the first time in a decade.
The education equalization measures I pushed for are helping close the funding gaps between high-revenue districts and low-revenue districts — most of which are rural schools. This is a huge step toward ensuring that students in Crow Wing or Aitkin County have the same educational opportunities as a child in Edina or Eagan. That is key to the economic vitality of our area now and in the future.
We’re also providing the first pay increase for nursing home and long-term care workers in over four years. Our nursing home and long-term care workers do great work caring for our loved ones and they deserve this increase. This is just a start; even with this increase, our nursing homes are still struggling. I support additional increases for nursing homes and long-term care workers going forward.
A strong transportation system is essential for a strong economy, but our roads and bridges are crumbling — more than 1,000 of our bridges are rated as structurally deficient and half of our highway pavements are more than 50 years old.
We all need a good transportation system — to go to school, work, for businesses to transport goods and services, and so on. I will continue working with my legislative colleagues and Governor Dayton on a comprehensive, statewide solution.
Bonding, also known as capital investment, is responsible long-term borrowing for necessary infrastructure projects in higher education, transportation, housing, economic development, clean water and waste water systems, among others.
Bonding helps our communities and economy grow by building the long-term infrastructure — roads, bridges, higher education facilities — needed to help businesses be successful in the future. A strong bonding bill is good for our economy, our quality of life, and our future and that’s why we passed a bonding package that improves infrastructure across Minnesota.
The bonding package contained a number of important area projects, including repairs to Central Lakes College, expanding the Cuyuna Lakes Trail, and funding for the Aitkin County Fairgrounds. A bipartisan coalition of area legislators also fought to include the Brainerd Lakes Regional Airport water/sewer line extension in the second tax bill, along with the Brainerd-Baxter local optional sales tax which would fund the extension.