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Poppe: House DFLers pass plan to create jobs

This week, DFLers in the Minnesota House of Representatives passed comprehensive legislation to create good jobs, expand broadband internet access, and make sure all Minnesotans have a place to call home.

Our Jobs, Commerce and Housing omnibus bill (HF 729) is designed to provide Minnesotans across our state with more economic security and stability.

Although Minnesota is faring far better than other states in terms of economic recovery, thousands are still in need of good jobs so they can put food on the table, keep a roof over their heads, and provide for their families. For example, unemployment in Mower County is down from a high of 7.5 percent in March 2009 to around 5.2 percent in February of this year. The package approved by the House of Representatives this week gives us the tools to make sure the unemployment rate continues on its downward trend.

One component of the plan to put people back to work provides $20 million for the Minnesota Investment Fund. Those resources provide financial incentives, such as low-interest loans, to out-of-state businesses thinking of setting up shop in Minnesota as well as in-state businesses thinking of expanding. According to the Department of Employment and Economic Development, MIF leverages over $33 in private investment for every $1 awarded.

Another component of this plan cuts unemployment insurance taxes paid by employers so they have more money in their pockets to retain and hire additional employees. The tax rate reduction saves businesses almost $350 million in the next couple years, with the average employer saving $150 per employee.

As you can imagine, it’s exponentially more difficult to secure a good job if you don’t have a place to call home. That’s why House DFLers passed a $22 million funding increase for the Minnesota Housing Finance Agency, which is responsible for preserving federally-subsidized rental housing, promoting successful homeownership, and helping communities recover from the foreclosure crisis.

Most importantly, one of MHFA’s top goals is to prevent and end homelessness. 619 homeless Minnesotans were counted in southeast Minnesota as part of a one-night survey conducted by the Amherst H. Wilder Foundation in 2012. About 51 percent of those individuals are children and youth under 21 years of age. According to the Minnesota Housing Partnership, an estimated 50-54 percent of renters in Mower County are unable to afford a modest two-bedroom apartment.

The $22 million dollar investment is the first increase in funding for MHFA in over a decade. That kind of investment will save taxpayers over the long run. When people can rely on stable, secure housing, they are more likely to hold a steady job and pay income taxes into the state coffers instead of relying on public assistance to get by on a daily basis.

This legislation also expands broadband internet access. It invests $1 million in the Office of Broadband Development over the next biennium. While we’ve made advances in this area over the past decade, we need to do more to make sure every consumer and business in rural Minnesota has access to high-speed internet to buy and sell products and services. According to a recent report from Governor Dayton’s Broadband Task Force, only 7.2 percent of Mower County households have access to landline broadband service that meets the state’s speed goals. This is an investment that will keep our region economically competitive.

The House DFL’s Jobs, Commerce, and Housing omnibus bill is an important step towards greater economic prosperity and security for all Minnesotans.

When the Minnesota Senate passes a jobs bill, a conference committee with members from both chambers will iron out the differences before sending a final package to Governor Dayton’s desk. Each of the larger omnibus bills will take the same course over the next month.

If you have any questions about the jobs package passed this week, please contact me by phone at 651-296-4193, by email at rep.jeanne.poppe@house.mn, or by postal mail at 487 State Office Building, 100 Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd., St. Paul, MN 55155.