Column: Creating, keeping jobs a priority

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, April 28, 2004

By Dan Sparks, State senator

It happens every year &045; Legislators come to the Capitol in January with a few key issues on their plates, but by the end of session in May there are dozens of subjects demanding their attention. There has been no shortage of big issues this year, but one topic has continued to dominate discussions in the midst of all of this session’s activity &045; jobs.

Everything I hear from constituents indicates that creating jobs and keeping those jobs in Minnesota are top priorities that people want lawmakers to address. It’s no wonder. Minnesota jobs have been in an economic slump since the recession began in 2001, and we are in the longest record of sustained job losses since the federal government began keeping track of the numbers in 1939.

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Although it has been suggested that the nation’s economy is picking up, Minnesota job growth remains below the national average. Unemployment claims are remaining steady and people are becoming frustrated with the lack of available jobs. This climate does not fit with Minnesota’s tradition of supporting its workforce, which is why Senate Democrats have been focusing on a comprehensive plan that will create quality jobs, improve existing jobs and protect good jobs in Minnesota.

The Overtime Protection Act, a bill that I authored, is one component of this plan. This bill to protect Minnesota workers at risk of losing overtime benefits passed out of the Senate last week, but unfortunately the House did not believe this issue was important enough to address this year. The federal government had a different response, however, and decided on Wednesday to respond to backlash from states and revise the federal labor law changes that would have taken overtime benefits from as many as eight million American workers. This decision reassured me that the Senate was right to take a stand and ensure that our workers are compensated fairly.

Another part of the Senate jobs plan is the bonding bill &045; an ongoing project during this non-budget session. Last fall the Senate bonding committee began visiting sites, such as Riverland Community College, throughout the state, researching ways that the state can use bonding money to improve Minnesota’s higher education buildings, parks, bridges and highways. Directing our resources toward these projects will improve the quality of life in Minnesota, stimulate the economy and, most importantly, bring needed jobs to every corner of the state.

The Senate also has been making progress on the Business Job Creation Act, which grants businesses in Greater Minnesota assistance with wages and benefits if they create jobs. In addition, we have addressed a minimum wage increase and the issue of outsourcing, passing the Protect Minnesota Jobs Act, which protects Minnesota jobs from leaving the country.

Unfortunately, the House has refused to grant most of these bills committee hearings and has disregarded much of the Senate’s efforts. I understand politics but I do not understand allowing politics to interfere in having real discussions on how we are going to address the state of Minnesota’s work environment. Peoples’ livelihoods are on the line, so I hope that all parties can come together in the next few, crucial months to follow the Senate’s lead and get Minnesota back on track.

The Constitutional deadline for session to end is May 17, and it is looking as if there will be legislative action right up until that date. If you have any questions or opinions on what is taking place, please do not hesitate to contact me. I can be reached at 651-296-9248 or 507-438-2898; G-24 State Capitol, St. Paul, MN 55155; or at, where you may also request my weekly e-mail newsletter.