First, let me wish Governor Dayton a speedy recovery, as he underwent surgery this week. We look forward to seeing him back at the Capitol operating at full speed within the next few days.
We received good economic news this week. The Minnesota Management & Budget office projects a $1.65 billion surplus through the 2018-19 biennium. That is an increase of about $250 million over the previous semi-annual budget forecast.
We can now have a better perspective on how much flexibility we have on providing long-term, targeted tax relief.
The Iron Range Resources and Rehabilitation Board held an organizational meeting this week. We welcomed new members including Sens. Ruud and Eichorn, and Reps. Layman and Sandstede to the board. We elected Sen. Tomasoni as board chair and Rep. Metsa as vice chair.
Many local constituents visited St. Paul this week, including members of the 49ers, teamsters, electricians, and carpenters unions. They expressed their strong support for increased transportation funding. I shared the details of a bill I am working on that would permanently dedicate sales tax revenue we already collect on auto and truck repairs to our roads and bridges.
Legislation extending the Mille Lacs Lake area economic aid program had its first hearing this week. The bill would continue the measures we put into effect last year to aid businesses suffering from economic issues caused by restrictions on walleye limits. Rep. Erickson and I are working to extend that program for at least another year while our walleye fishery works its way back to normal.
On Thursday the House passed a bill reiterating the state’s authority to set uniform labor standards across the state. Recently, our two largest metropolitan cities passed ordinances that would take effect next summer dictating hourly wages rates, paid leave policies, and work hour scheduling for private sector companies that do business with their city.
Minnesota has a 160-year tradition of uniform statewide labor standards. This recent effort, if allowed to continue, will create a patchwork of conflicting city ordinances and create enormous administrative headaches that will cost employer’s resources that could be better used to increase wages and benefits for their employees.
Lastly, the Sunday liquor off-sales bill completed final passage in both the Senate and House this week and is now headed for the governor’s desk for signature. Cheers!