More good news has been released on the state of our economy. The Federal Reserve recently upgraded its outlook on the economy by saying it expects the economy to grow moderately this year. Of course we would like to see even better news, but positive economic growth is something to celebrate after years of downturn.
The news from the Federal Reserve is released on the heels the good news we had in Minnesota only weeks ago. The Department of Employment and Economic Development’s (DEED) most recent report showed that employers added 15,500 jobs reducing our unemployment rate to 5.6 percent.
With only a few weeks left in the 2012 legislative session, the Legislature and Gov. Dayton has a small window to collaborate on legislation to improve on this good news.
A good place to start is Gov. Dayton’s supplemental budget. The focus of his budget is to invest in more jobs for Minnesotans and support for police officers and veterans. The governor also reinvests in Minnesota’s Department of Human Services (DHS) system and supplies more funding for the fight against aquatic invasive species. Highlights of the budget include:
•$35 million for a Jobs Now Tax Credit, which will put thousands of veterans, students and currently unemployed Minnesotans back to work.
•$2 million for an expansion of FastTRAC, which helps educationally underprepared adults, succeed in well-paying careers by integrating basic skills education and career-specific training. For more information, visit www.mnfasttrac.org.
•$10 million for the Minnesota Investment Fund, which provides grants to help add new workers and retain high-quality jobs on a statewide basis. For more information, visit DEED’s website at http://www.positivelyminnesota.com and search for “Minnesota Investment Fund.”
•Increases to benefits for veterans, including $915,000 for an expansion of the Veterans GI Bill, $1.05 million for County Veterans Service Officers and $100,000 in sustained funding for honor guard services. I am carrying legislation that parallels this proposal.
•Reinvest in DHS, including $5.9 million for Personal Care Attendant funding, $6.4 million for medical education research costs and $4.7 million for emergency, life-saving care like chemotherapy and dialysis for the sickest Minnesotans.
•$4 million for the fight against aquatic invasive species.
It is time for the Legislature and the governor to work together on issues that will move our state forward. Much of the 2012 Legislative session has passed, but we still have time to add to the good news we are seeing in our economy. Along with a bonding bill, the governor’s proposal will be a great benefit to the state. I am hopeful that we will see some action on this proposal before our time is up at the Capitol.
As always, please contact me with questions or suggestions as needed. Please visit my Senate website at senate.mn/senatorwiger. I also encourage you to visit me at the Capitol, or let me know if you’d like me to stop by your house or apartment. Also, please tune in to my local cable TV show, “Your Capitol: What’s Up?,” which appears on public access channels 15 and 16.