This year’s session is now at its midway point. Our deadlines have come and gone, and we have been able to accomplish some great things already, with more things to come. Returning from the Easter/Passover break, we will have less than one month to finish up the last items of our legislative agenda.
There is much we have accomplished this year, and I am very happy about one particular success, and that is the full 5% rate increase for our home and community based service caregivers. These hardworking, dedicated men and women have not had the adequate state support they deserve. The work these caregivers do provides some of Minnesota’s most vulnerable citizens with the quality of life they deserve.
Unfortunately, low pay has put a major strain on these caregivers; too often they work multiple jobs and are still unable to support themselves. Thankfully, 80% of the increase is going directly to the increasing the wages for these workers. This will directly address the issues of staff turnover and retention, and help maintain the consistent high-quality of care that they provide.
The 5% rate increase has been something I have been dedicated to for a long time and as chief author of this legislation, I know we wouldn’t have succeeded without the dedicated caregivers, advocates and citizens of this state who recognized the great need for giving these folks the support they deserve. This is only a first step however, and we must continue to work to provide equity and fair compensation for those who provide care for those with disabilities and seniors.
Considering the relatively short session we have, another great accomplishment is the work we have done to provide further tax relief for hardworking families, businesses and students. Already we have passed a smart and balanced tax bill that provides $443 million in tax relief for middle class citizens in Greater Minnesota
Included in the bill is repeals of the three business to business taxes; eliminating sales tax on commercial and farm equipment repair, warehousing storage and telecommunications equipment. These repeals will reduce costs for thousands of businesses. At the same time, we are expanding the Angel Investment Tax credit, a proven job creator. In 2012, this $12 million program spurred over $72 million in private investment.
Another important issue was creating conformity with federal taxes. We are eliminating the Marriage Penalty, expanding the Working Family Credit, we are giving students the ability to deduct the interest paid on student loan payments and helping our teachers in the out of pocket expenses they have in the classroom. These measures are going to provide real savings for thousands of Minnesotans.
There is still more work to be done this year. After the Easter/Passover recess, we will begin to tackle the capital investment bill. Capital investment – often called bonding – gives us the opportunity to use state dollars to support job-creating projects across the state. With bonding we can repair and modernize our infrastructure, invest in our colleges and universities, and help fund important regional assets that help to jumpstart local economies.
There are several well-deserving local projects I would like to see in a final bill, and the full list of projects is available at the website Build.MN. I encourage you to check out this interactive website and to contact me or any other members of the Capital Investment committee to let us know why you think we should support a specific project.
Last year, we passed an honest and responsible budget that provides us with a firm economic foundation. This year we are continuing to take a balanced and responsible approach in moving Minnesota forward. As we continue to work on the issues that face our state, I’m confident in the work we have already done to give us long-term success. Let’s continue to make western Minnesota a great place to raise a family, start a business and go to school.