We kicked off the 2014 session with news from Minnesota Management and Budget that our state had a budget surplus of $1.2 billion. We immediately used a significant portion of the surplus to pay back the school shift. Next, it was announced that Minnesota has fully recovered the jobs lost during the recession and unemployment has hit a six-year low. March’s unemployment numbers show the seasonally adjusted rate for the month is 4.8 percent, compare that to the national rate of 6.7 percent and Minnesota continues to score well. In fact, new numbers from the Department of Employment and Economic Develop report Minnesota’s labor force surpassed the 3 million mark in March for the first time in state history!
During the first seven weeks of session the legislature has acted with precision, successfully passing the Safe and Supportive Schools Act which will create safer school environments across the state, two omnibus tax bills which pass along savings to hundreds of thousands of Minnesotans and local governments; and most recently we raised the minimum wage from $6.15 to $9.50 per hour by 2016 that will immediately impact more than 350,000 Minnesotans.
The Finance Bill included significant investments for early childhood education. These included $8.9 million for early childhood family education with $3.36 million
dedicated to school readiness aid – a bill I am proud to have authored. This funding is vital for programs that help young children ages 3 to kindergarten with a wide
variety of skills from social-emotional development to literacy and language skills. Both public education and higher-education have been important investments again this session.
The Health and Human Services portion of the Finance Bill is also a win for Minnesota. In fact, because of the five percent rate increase included in the bill (called the
5% Campaign), 90,000 Minnesotans will get a pay raise, which will directly lead to better quality care for thousands of people with disabilities and seniors across the
state. This is an issue close to my heart and one I’ve worked hard on for more than a year. My HHS Unsession bill will remove more than 1,000 outdated, irrelevant
or inappropriate statutes relating to people with disabilities.
More good news on the job front arrived just days before the start of Easter/Passover break when the Senate and House passed a minimum wage bill, raising the wage
from $6.15 per hour to $9.50 per hour by 2016. Starting in 2018 the wage will also be tied to inflation, thereby ensuring Minnesota won’t fall behind again when it comes to paying a progressive minimum wage. I’m proud to stand up for the 357,000 low-wage workers across the state who will be better able provide for their families because we raised the minimum wage. Raising the minimum wage will also significantly better the lives of Minnesota women, who make up 60 percent of minimum wage workers in the state.
As the last few weeks of session begin, the substantial legislation we have left to focus on is the bonding bill. Our district has several important projects requesting
money including the Elm Creek Dam at the Mill Pond, the beginning of Highway 10 projects, renovations at the Brooklyn Park Armory and infrastructure at Anoka Hennepin and Anoka Ramsey colleges. These are just a few of the hundreds of projects which make up more than $4 billion worth of bonding requests across the state. I look forward to seeing the bill and voting yes to invest in the infrastructure that make Minnesota great. Let’s have a great Spring!
Senator John Hoffman