March 31, 2010
In just two months, the Minnesota Legislature has accomplished much of what we set out to do. By focusing on common sense, bipartisan solutions, we are doing the work necessary to responsibly resolve the budget deficit and put Minnesotans back to work.
Jobs Bill Part I: Bonding Bill
Right out of the gate, the Legislature passed a jobs-targeted bonding bill capable of putting nearly 20,000 Minnesotans back to work. The bill makes strategic investments in high-priority, shovel-ready infrastructure projects including vital improvements to our transportation system, clean water infrastructure, and higher education system. In our area, projects were funded for North Hennepin Community College, Victory Memorial Drive, the Lowry Bridge and Hennepin County Medical Center. The final bill will improve our state’s infrastructure, bolster the short-term job outlook, and lay the groundwork for the science and technology jobs of tomorrow. Invigorating economic growth quickly is an important step in stabilizing the economy and preparing for sustainable future growth.
Jobs Bill Part II: Tax Incentives and Reform
Continuing our focus on the economy and job creation, the Legislature passed common sense tax reform and incentives that will create thousands of new jobs in bioscience, manufacturing, construction and the emerging clean energy economy. The package includes the Angel Investment Credit, the Historic Credit, an increase in the R&D Credit, CARZ for the Ford Motor Plant, expanded TIF flexibility to boost construction, more flexibility to move Phase II of the Mall of America forward and a mechanism for local units of government to issue revenue bonds for Green Building. The provisions are targeted to address the immediate challenges facing the state.
Bipartisan Small Business Agenda
As a member of the bipartisan House Small Business Caucus, I have been working with my colleagues to make Minnesota a better place to do business. Eight bills backed by the caucus would free up needed capital, cut red tape and better connect small businesses with existing state resources. The bills were drawn from the expertise provided by small business leaders, trade and association groups, state agencies, economic and policy experts and through a survey of more than 1,100 small businesses throughout the state including businesses from Robbinsdale, Crystal and Golden Valley.
General Assistance Medical Care Restoration
Working together, lawmakers reached a responsible, bipartisan solution that restores basic health care for 85,000 of Minnesota’s poorest, sickest people and prevents 20,000 working adults from losing Minnesota Care. Although our first legislative proposal, which was overwhelming passed by the House on a 125-9 vote and then vetoed by the Governor, would have been the best result for our state budget, hospitals, and GAMC recipients; the final legislation preserves health care and prescription drug coverage for more than 85,000 adults and maintains payments to hospitals. I also remain committed to continuing the work that needs to be done to enact more wide-ranging reforms in our health care system.
Strategic Budget Cuts
Well-ahead of schedule, the Legislature passed a plan to resolve one-third of the state’s $1 billion budget shortfall. Making carefully-crafted, strategic budget cuts, lawmakers trimmed $312 million in state spending. Every area of the state budget was included in this plan except K-12 Education and Health and Human Services. Minnesota will receive a significant funding boost as the result of the recently passed federal health care reform legislation which will help us determine how to balance the remainder of the deficit. This plan represents significant progress on the toughest challenge the Legislature is facing this year. The decisions were difficult, but reflect our priorities of protecting property taxpayers and classrooms.
Common Sense Election Reform
Acting on lessons learned during the 2008 U.S. Senate election recount, the Legislature passed bipartisan election reforms to make our voting system the most reliable and efficient in the nation while helping Minnesotans cast their ballots more easily. In addition, we passed a new law to move the state’s primary election date to the second Tuesday in August, which this year will be August 10. This legislation is in response to the Federal MOVE Act, which requires military and overseas absentee ballots to be sent at least 45 days in advance of a primary or general election. Our ultimate goal as a state is to enact election reform measures that encourage voter turnout and broaden the base of participation, while still protecting voter's rights and the integrity of the system.
We have more work to do and we know the decisions ahead will be difficult, but I remain committed to making the tough choices to move our state forward. Please continue to contact me as we work together to keep Minnesota a great place to live.