From the opening gavel of session we have had one primary goal: job creation. The Legislature came out and said this would be our priority. Since we’re nearing the end, it’s a good time to look back and see if this was just empty rhetoric. Fortunately, our actions show that we followed through on our talk and helped get Minnesotans back to work.
It all started with the early passage of a bonding bill. It was introduced on the first day of session and made its way through the house, senate, and governor’s office with unprecedented speed. The focus was on good jobs that fixed our infrastructure and laid the groundwork for Minnesota’s future.
Unfortunately, the Governor decided to line-item veto many projects (including some in my own district). At the end of the day we had about a $680 million dollar bill. Though it is less than what we wanted it will still get up to 14,000 off the bench and back to work.
Rather than sitting back on our laurels we got to work on a second jobs bill. This combined a mix of tax credits and Tax Increment Financing (TIF). The tax credits-one for angel investors and another for historical buildings- will accomplish two different things.
The angel investor tax credit gives a boost to Minnesota’s entrepreneurs. It provides them with additional funding for their ventures in areas like bio-technology and clean energy. In this way the Legislature is helping to create the jobs and the companies of the next century right here in Minnesota.
The historic building tax credit is even more important to our immediate future. It allows for a 20% state tax credit which matches a federal credit available for historic structure rehabilitation on certified projects. Many of these buildings have not been fixed in awhile and need plenty of restoration. The heavy work-load will give more of our contractors a chance to collect a paycheck again while maintaining Minnesota’s architectural heritage.
Along with this we have made it easier for many communities to take advantage of TIF for projects that are shovel-ready. Most importantly, the use of TIF at the Mall of America will be more flexible without burdening property taxpayers. The work done at the Mall alone could put upwards of 1,000 construction workers back on the job.
Basically, projects that would otherwise be unaffordable for cities become reality through TIF. This happens because it creates funding by borrowing against future property tax revenues. The property values of these projects are projected to increase once their finished so the future gains in taxes are used to finance current improvements.
All this adds up to more jobs for trade unions and construction companies who have seen the opportunities for work shrink with the downturn in the housing market. Along with jobs that grew out of the bonding bill and jobs package II, there is another road back to employment. It turns out that a bill the Legislature passed in 2008 has positive benefits for Minnesotans in 2010.
I’m referring to the Transportation Bill of 2008. As a direct result of provisions within it, the Minnesota Department of Transportation received more funds this year for summer projects. In total, 283 road projects across the state will begin this summer. That adds up to a $1.3 billion investment in our transportation infrastructure.
All that money means more companies will be securing construction bids. It means our roads and bridges will be upgraded so commerce and traffic will both flow smoothly anywhere in Minnesota. Before you get mad seeing under construction signs this summer I would ask you to think about how many jobs each site has saved or created.
Add it all up and it’s been a busy session so far. The Legislature decided not to bring partisan politics to the Capitol. We worked with our colleagues across the aisle to get these job measures passed. As of last week we had passed 108 other policy bills. Of those over 90 were approved by over 100 or more votes. In a time of recession, I’m proud to say Legislators set aside their differences to do the work of the people. It was more than demanded, it was expected.