By: Minnesota State Senator Kevin Dahle
This week marked the Senate’s annual Easter/Passover recess: a time for legislators to reflect on what has happened over the last few months and look ahead to what still needs to be done. Although this year’s session has been shorter than average, there has been no lack of accomplishments. I am proud of the Senate’s achievements this biennium and I hope we can continue the positive momentum for the rest of the year.
Perhaps the biggest story coming into this session was the great news of the $1.2 billion budget surplus. This is Minnesota’s first budget surplus (for the current and next biennium) in seven years. The surplus is another great sign that Minnesota is moving in the right direction. Our state has added over 133,000 jobs since 2011, and at 4.6%, our state’s unemployment rate is the lowest it’s been since June 2007.
However, these great numbers don’t mean that legislators can just sit back and relax. After learning of the surplus, we immediately began drafting legislation to provide tax relief to middle class Minnesotans. In all, the Senate enacted $500 million worth of broad bipartisan tax cuts, which provided breaks for families, students and businesses.
Another highlight of this session is the variety of great bills written and enacted that focus on education. Many are calling last year the “education session,” and we’ve carried through on our commitment this year as well. We repaid $2.8 million back from the school shift to move away from accounting gimmicks, and saved some families $2,500 a year by funding all-day Kindergarten. My legislation on reforming college and career readiness standards will decrease our dropout rates and ensure that more students are ready for the next step after high school, whatever that may be. If they choose to go to college, a tuition freeze at all Minnesota public colleges will help them finance their education; if they decide to enter the workforce directly, recent and upcoming legislation will provide support to get them moving on their career.
Minnesota is also looking to be one of the best places to continue that career, as we build on our economic recovery and continue to strengthen our state. By raising the minimum wage, we’re increasing the purchasing power of thousands of Minnesotans, putting more money in their pockets, lifting working Minnesotans out of poverty, and stimulating the economy even further. Due in large part to recent statewide reforms, Minnesota jumped up 12 places on Forbes’ “Best States for Business,” where we are now in the top 10.
While it is nice to reflect on all that has been achieved so far this session, there is always more work to be done. I’ve been spending time this week meeting with constituents across the district while the legislature is on a break. People have shared good input on the upcoming bonding bill, ways to reform our education system, and strategies to build on our economy in creative and sustainable ways. As always, please contact my office if you have ideas or comments to share. Enjoy the slowly warming weather, and I hope you have a happy Easter.