BY KEN MARTIN - GUEST COLUMNIST
This month, legislators will return to the State Capitol in St. Paul for the 2014 legislative session. While the 2013 legislative session will be remembered for “promises made, promises kept,” as Gov. Mark Dayton and DFL legislators delivered a fairer tax system, all-day kindergarten for all children and property tax relief, much work remains to strengthen Minnesota’s middle class.
This year, the DFL will focus on a bonding bill that funds critical infrastructure projects in communities throughout the state. These projects are necessary for our counties, cities and townships in Minnesota to continue to grow and thrive.
In addition to meeting the needs of Minnesota’s communities, Gov. Dayton’s bonding proposal is projected to create 27,000 jobs in Minnesota. Some of the projects are focused on regional civic centers, downtown improvements, higher education and roads and bridges which will give a boost to Minnesota workers. While the economy has been improving, there are still a number of Minnesotans looking for work; passing a bonding bill will make a big difference in the lives of working Minnesotans.
Speaking of working Minnesotans, there will be a push this session to increase the minimum wage to $9.50 by 2015. People should not have to work a 40-hour week and still live in poverty. Thousands of Minnesotans are struggling to get by on substandard wages. Too many people in our communities are falling behind because our state has not kept up with the federal minimum wage.
The Minnesota DFL is a proud member of the Minimum Wage Coalition, which is a broad coalition of community, faith, labor, nonprofit and service-based organizations working together to raise the minimum wage for small businesses to $8.50 and large businesses to $9.50 by 2015. Raising the wage will move families out of poverty and help improve our economy.
After years of Republicans’ gimmicks to balance the state’s budget, under DFL leadership, Minnesota finally has an honest state budget and a projected budget surplus. The November forecast predicts more than a $1 billion budget surplus; with one of the strongest state economies in the United States, the February forecast could be larger.
Since Gov. Dayton took office, 133,000 jobs have been created in Minnesota, and the state has more jobs than ever before. In 2012, Minnesota had the fifth-fastest growing economy in the United States, and in 2013 Forbes magazine named Minnesota the eighth best state in the United States to do business. The budget surplus offers an opportunity to build on these successes and continue moving Minnesota down the path to long-term prosperity.
Prior to the start of session, I encourage you to contact your local legislators and let them know your top priorities. If you are unsure who represents you in the Minnesota House of Representatives and Minnesota Senate, visit the Minnesota State Legislature website at leg.state.mn.us for a district finder. We all need to play a part in working with Gov. Dayton and DFL legislators to build a better Minnesota.
Ken Martin is chairman of the Minnesota DFL.