As your State Representatives, we are both very proud to have been able to serve our communities during this legislative session. Many significant bills have passed and signed into law. Most notably for our communities, the historic passage of the Northstar Commuter Rail occurred as part of the $945 million bonding bill. This bonding bill will create as many as 10,000 jobs and get our state economy moving again.
We also successfully raised the minimum wage, for the first time since 1988, passed a higher education funding bill that will put almost $212 million into our state colleges and universities and approved a public safety bill that will tighten the penalties for methamphetamine users and manufacturers and do a better job of protecting our children from sexual predators.
We were pleased to work with other freshmen legislators to bring forward a slate of education policy proposals supporting quality, as well as adequate and fair funding. Together, first term representatives hosted education summits around the state. The concerns of parents, teachers and kids are similar across the state and it was gratifying to hear support for our education proposals.
This year, like past years, the leadership did not get together to adopt a mutually agreeable outline for the state's 2-year, $30 billion budget. Both of us encouraged leadership early in the session to move toward on-time completion. We joined with other legislators to propose a law that no legislator should get per diem (daily) payments in the special session. We believe there should be an economic incentive to end on time. Unfortunately, the law was not adopted, but neither of us will be accepting per diem payments in the special session.
Prior to the spring recess, we sent a letter to Speaker Sviggum and Minority Leader Entenza encouraging compromise and productivity. Next session, we will pursue a series of process-oriented reforms to change the legislative process to make it more efficient.
We are both proud of our ability to work with members on both sides of the aisle to get things done. We have broken from our party on key votes in order to compromise and move the process forward. We will continue to fight hard for policies that are good for the north metro area and for the state. We will also continue to encourage all legislative leaders to compromise, meet in the middle and get things done.
We hope for a speedy and high quality resolution to the special session. Our primary job at the Legislature this year is setting MN's next two-year budget. We will pursue a fiscally conservative result, one that fully funds K-12, takes care of our critical transportation needs and puts some cost-saving health care reforms into place.
We are pleased that the Governor acknowledged the need to generate revenue with his proposed cigarette tax. Our only regret is that it did not come sooner, allowing productive conversations and action before the end of the session.
We will continue to work with all parties to get our work done and get it done well. Our highest priorities are to insure solid funding for our kids in school, a strong transportation plan and cost-saving health care reform.
Melissa Hortman, District 47
Denise Dittrich, District 47A