Session put state on trackPublished 7:06pm Saturday, June 14, 2014
When the legislative session began in January of 2013, Minnesota faced big challenges, including a $627 million budget deficit and nearly $1 billion in debt to our schools.
The DFL-led Legislature moved our state in a new direction. As a result, Minnesota is much stronger today than when the 2013-14 session began. By closing corporate tax loopholes and asking the wealthiest Minnesotans to chip in just 2 percent more in income taxes, the Legislature was able to:
• Eliminate the deficit and balance our budget without using gimmicks or shifts.
• Invest in job creation and economic development in Greater Minnesota, including high-speed broadband Internet.
• Provide all-day kindergarten for every child free of charge.
• Freeze college tuition for two years and expand financial aid.
• Increase property tax refunds for homeowners, renters and farmers.
• Boost funding for nursing homes and long-term caregivers.
• Expand the school lunch program.
As chair of the Agriculture Policy Committee, I had the honor of authoring and overseeing much of the legislation we passed that benefits family farmers and Minnesota’s agriculture sector.
For example, the Legislature repealed a sales tax on farm equipment repairs, boosted property tax refunds for family farmers, expanded a farm-to-food shelf program, extended the Farmer-Lender Mediation Act, improved pollinator habitats and strengthened our biofuel industry. State lawmakers also invested in vital research at the University of Minnesota on the porcine epidemic diarrhea virus, invasive species, and winter-annual and perennial crops (the Forever Green Agriculture Initiative), which will lead to better crop rotation, production and soil health.
I am also proud of the progress the Legislature made for our city and our region.
I authored a bill during the 2013 special session, passed unanimously, to provide $4.5 million in emergency disaster relief to 18 southern and central counties damaged by severe storms. And the first bill we passed during the 2014 session provided $20 million in emergency heating assistance for low-income families impacted by the propane crisis last winter.
Here in Austin, our public schools received over $3.2 million in additional funding over the biennium. Thanks to our investments in direct property tax relief and Local Government Aid, we helped reduce property taxes for Austin homeowners by 14.8 percent—and that’s before you factor in bigger property tax refunds for 1,500 homeowners in Mower County.