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State Representative JoAnn Ward

231 State Office BuildingState Office Building
100 Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd.
651-296-7807

For more information contact: Matt Roznowski 651-296-8875

Posted: May 22 2014 4:59PM
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GUEST COLUMN

2013-2014 Wrap Up: Minnesota is Stronger Than When Legislative Session Began


On May 16, the Minnesota Legislature completed an incredibly productive 2013-2014 Session.

I encourage you to attend my upcoming town hall meeting to ask questions and provide feedback about the tremendous amount of progress we made. The event is taking place on Saturday, June 7 from 10:00-11:15am at Woodbury City Hall in the Ash & Birch room.

By focusing on priorities that Minnesotans broadly share, like education, middle-class tax cuts, job creation and an honestly balanced budget, our state is much stronger today than when the Session began in January of 2013.

Frankly, the previous Legislature left us with a fiscal mess. We inherited a $627 million budget deficit and over $800 million in debt to our schools. Any family or small business owner that balances their checkbook every week could tell you they would have a hard time making ends meet under those kinds of dire circumstances.

When I was sworn into office, I rolled up my sleeves and wasted no time solving the big challenges facing our state. Some people continue to peddle the same tired doom-and-gloom rhetoric (none of which has come true), but the facts show that Minnesota is on the right track.

We repaid all of the money borrowed from our schools, turned our deficit into a surplus and made new investments to build a thriving middle class. We did so largely by increasing income taxes on the wealthiest two percent of Minnesotans and closing corporate tax loopholes – an approach much more fair and effective toward building a healthy economy than raising tuition, increasing property taxes and borrowing from our schools like the previous Legislature did.

From the time the Session began, employers have added over 50,000 jobs, restoring all of the jobs lost during the Great Recession. Our statewide unemployment rate is one of the lowest rates in the country. Here in Woodbury, it’s fallen from 4.4 percent in January 2013 to 3.0 percent last month.

More individuals, families and businesses have access to high quality, affordable health care. Insurance companies cannot drop your coverage when you get sick or charge women higher premiums than men. And young adults can stay on their parents’ plan until their 26th birthday.

Minimum wage workers are getting their first pay raise in nearly a decade. Many homeowners and renters are receiving bigger property tax refunds while overall statewide property taxes are dropping for the first time in years. Pay equity requirements for state contractors and stronger workplace protections for pregnant women and nursing mothers mean more economic security for middle-class families. College students are taking on less debt thanks to a two-year year tuition freeze and the largest financial aid increase in ten years. Starting this fall, every child can attend all-day Kindergarten and receive a healthy breakfast free of charge.

That amount of progress in such a short amount of time is a refreshing contrast to the gridlock and grandstanding we see from Washington, DC. Is there more work to be done? Absolutely. But there is no denying that Minnesota is on the right track.

As we look ahead, building a world-class transportation system must be a top priority, especially one that brings greater access to the east metro by developing the Gateway Corridor. We also need to continue making progress on ensuring a sustainable supply of water for households, businesses and recreation. As we’ve seen in White Bear Lake, taking our precious lakes, rivers and streams for granted is no longer an option. Public health will also need greater attention as we realize how the environment, transportation, public safety and so many other concerns of our citizenry are impacted by the systems now in place.  

Despite these challenges, Minnesotans have good reason to feel optimistic about our future.

Our fiscal house is on strong, stable footing, businesses are expanding, Minnesotans are going back to work and all of our kids have better opportunities to succeed in the classroom and reach their full potential.

As a recent article in the Star Tribune put it, Minnesota is once again ‘The state that works.’

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