The 2012 House session officially ended in the wee hours of Thursday morning after a flurry of activity to wrap up a few final bills.
In the final days we passed two tax bills to provide tax relief, along with other bills which fund construction projects throughout the state, build a Vikings stadium and streamline transportation services for Minnesotans.
The final version of the Vikings stadium bill enacted by the governor includes $50 million more in contributions from the team than the Vikings pledged when the proposal first reached the House floor. The bill calls for a $975 million roofed stadium to be built on the existing Metrodome site and adjacent land in downtown Minneapolis. The contributions include: $477 from the Vikings/NFL, $348 from the state, and $150 million from Minneapolis. The state’s share will come from electronic pull tabs and bingo.
It is important to note you will not pay a single penny toward the stadium unless you gamble or go to a game.
Our governor vetoed the Tax Relief and Job Creation Act recently, but we sent him a pair of scaled-back bills in the waning hours of the session. The new proposals provide for a one-year freeze on the state property tax levy paid by business property and seasonal property owners. There also is a new internship grant program designed to attract and keep talent in areas of Greater Minnesota like ours. Other key measures include a veterans jobs credit, improvements to the research and development tax credit and a provision to provide more money for student loans.
The capital investment (bonding) bill provides $496 million for construction projects throughout the state. This bill includes much-needed asset preservation for buildings, pays for work on college campuses and fixes roads and bridges across Minnesota. It also covers flood mitigation and a number of other important infrastructure projects. A $44 million appropriation is included for restoring our crumbling state Capitol. It is far short of what the total project will cost, but this down payment will allow work to begin.
The transportation bill we passed contains provisions to eliminate antiquated and duplicative regulations, streamline county construction projects, promote agricultural transportation, and facilitate alternative modes of transportation for senior citizens.
This was a memorable biennium at the Capitol for a number of reasons. I am pleased improvements the new majority enacted continue to produce results. In the last year alone, we turned a $5.1 billion state budget shortfall into a $1.2 billion surplus. Our unemployment rate fell from 6.6 percent to 5.8 percent in the same span. Minnesota gained almost 42,000 jobs in the last year, partly because of bills we enacted to make our state a better place to do business.
But our work in St. Paul is never complete and we cannot afford to become complacent. We must keep our foot on the gas pedal to continue seeking areas of improvement. Top priorities in 2013 must remain improving our business climate, helping more people get back to work and reducing mandates which handcuff local governments. We also must continue to prioritize accelerating repayment of delayed K-12 funding after a proposal to do so was vetoed this session.
I look forward to spending more time in the district, discussing these and other issues with local citizens now that our session has ended. I appreciate the support I continue receiving from area people and always welcome your input.