Legislative session shows progress for Minn.Published 3:43pm Saturday, May 24, 2014
Column: Capital Comments, by Shannon Savick
The Legislature adjourned our 2013-2014 legislative session on May 16 just before midnight. It was the first time in over a decade that the Legislature finished its work early. When considering all the work that was accomplished over the last two years, it’s amazing we were able to wrap up so early.
When we came to the Capitol in January 2013, we had a $600 million budget deficit and over $800 million still owed to our schools.
Since then, we’ve made significant progress. By passing a structurally balanced budget last year without any shifts or gimmicks, we were able to return to the Capitol this session with a $1.2 billion budget surplus. About $550 million of that was used to cut taxes for families, businesses and farmers. But it was also used to make investments in education, increased property tax refunds and job creation.
The schools have now been paid back in full, including the more than $8.5 million borrowed from Albert Lea alone. We made historic investments in education that will help Albert Lea Schools receive roughly $2.8 million in new funding this biennium, including full funding for all-day kindergarten.
Those investments also helped freeze undergraduate tuition for students at all public colleges and universities across Minnesota.
For years property taxes were increasing every year, sometime by double digits. Now, they are heading in the opposite direction.
Thanks to increased local government aid and county program aid and the hard work of local officials to hold down local levies, homeowners in Albert Lea will pay 13.8 percent lower taxes this year.
We also addressed rising property taxes for farmers by investing $17 million of new money to increase property tax refunds for more than 90,000 homesteaded farms. An average family farmer will see $410 in property tax relief, roughly double the average refund from last year.
To boost job creation across the state, we invested in job training and workforce development.
We invested $20 million for improved broadband Internet access to put rural areas on equal footing with the metro. We invested $54 in the Minnesota Investment Fund and the Job Creation Fund to offer low-interest loans and grants to businesses who are looking to set up shop in our communities and create jobs.
I worked tirelessly with other rural legislators to make sure Greater Minnesota was a priority for us this session. Our hard work paid off in the form of $7.5 million for the Fountain Lake cleanup project, $433,000 for the Blazing Star Trail, $700,000 for the Shell Rock River Watershed District and a pilot program to give a $500 stipend to volunteer firefighters, first responders and EMTs in 14 rural counties (including Freeborn and Faribault) across Minnesota.
By investing in our schools, our communities, and our businesses, we are creating a strong and stable foundation for our economy. We’ve made a lot of progress over the past two years, and I hope we can continue that progress moving forward.
Shannon Savick, DFL-Wells, is the state representative for House District 27A.