Minnesota could teach D.C. a thing or two

Published 11:25 am Thursday, October 17, 2013

It seems that gridlock and grandstanding are the only items on the legislative agenda in Washington these days, don’t you think?

Jeanne Poppe

Jeanne Poppe

Our federal government, which is in the midst of its first shutdown in more than 15 years, would be well served to take a look at the state of Minnesota to see what happens when lawmakers put people over partisanship.

Instead of creating more D.C.-style gridlock, the DFL-led Legislature and Gov. Mark Dayton made meaningful progress this year on priorities that Minnesotans broadly share, such as education and job creation — and the results speak for themselves.

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For example, the most recent jobs report from the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development showed that employers added more than 12,000 jobs during the month of August. Those gains mean we’ve recovered all the jobs lost during the recession and added thousands more than we had during the prerecession peak in February 2008.

In addition, Minnesota’s unemployment rate dropped to a seasonally adjusted 5.1 percent — the lowest level since April 2008 and well below the national rate of 7.3 percent.

But that’s not all.

Minnesota recently ranked eighth on Forbes’ 2013 List of Best States for Business. That’s a 12-spot improvement from where we were this time last year — the largest improvement of any state. And earlier this summer, Moody’s Investor Service, a leading credit rating provider, upgraded Minnesota’s financial outlook from “negative” to “stable” thanks to “strong financial management.”

We also recently learned that the “school shift,” an unpopular gimmick lawmakers used to balance the budget in 2011, is nearly repaid in full. About $2.6 billion of the $2.8 billion borrowed from schools is getting returned thanks to an accelerated repayment plan lawmakers included in the new state budget.

All this progress is a refreshing contrast to the gridlock that has become so commonplace in Washington, but by no means can we be satisfied. Many Minnesotans are still in need of a good job to support themselves and their families.

To put more people back to work, lawmakers from both sides of the aisle need to work together to pass a strong bonding bill during the 2014 legislative session. Doing so allows us to support shovel-ready projects like improvements to our roads, bridges, schools and other infrastructure that Minnesotans depend on every single day.

For example, the House Capital Investment Committee, which is responsible for crafting the bonding bill, visited southern Minnesota last week to tour projects like civic center improvements in Rochester and Mankato, flood mitigation in Austin, completion of the Blazing Star Trail in Albert Lea, and improvements to the State Academy for the Deaf in Faribault.

These kinds of projects exist all over the state and they are vital to keeping Minnesota’s economy healthy and growing.

For proof, look no further than the 2012 bonding bill that made the Hormel Institute expansion possible. That project not only put people back to work, it also improved the Institute’s groundbreaking cancer research to help save lives and reduce health care costs in the long term.

Passing a strong bonding bill can create thousands of good jobs and help make Minnesota a national economic leader. I am hopeful that lawmakers will continue to put people over partisanship and get the job done in 2014.

As the bickering in D.C. continues, keep in mind that here in Minnesota, we’re doing things right.

The gridlock is gone, our economy is headed in the right direction, and we have every reason to be optimistic about our future.


Austin resident Jeanne Poppe is a member of the Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party representing District 27B. She is serving her fifth term.