Viewpoint: Vision for future includes good jobs, strong economyAs two young girls sang “Shines for All to See,” a song celebrating Minnesota's 150th anniversary, the 2008 Legislative session was gaveled in to session last Tuesday.
By: Marsha Swails, Viewpoint Writer, Woodbury Bulletin
As two young girls sang “Shines for All to See,” a song celebrating Minnesota's 150th anniversary, the 2008 Legislative session was gaveled in to session last Tuesday.
After a busy interim that laid the groundwork for an unusually fast start, we began by focusing on bills to revive our faltering economy and keep Minnesota strong, economically competitive and prosperous.
I always try to look on the bright side while balancing that optimism with clear-eyed pragmatism.
The realist in me recognizes the tremendous toll rising unemployment and job losses have taken on Minnesota in recent months, which makes the case even stronger for bills that create jobs and stimulate the economy.
The case is particularly compelling in light of trends during the last half of 2007, when the state lost 23,000 jobs and for the first time in 30 years, fell behind the national unemployment average.
But the optimist in me sees opportunities for renewal that accompany these challenges.
In a vivid demonstration of our determination to meet these challenges, we began the first day of the session by introducing the Safe Roads and Bridges Improvement Act.
This comprehensive transportation funding package will create an average of 33,000 jobs a year for the next five years and provide an $8.4 billion investment in the safety and efficiency of Minnesota’s transportation system.
The bill would fix the most critical bridges in the state's trunk highways system within two years with an equitable balance between metro and rural needs, and between accessible transit and safer highways.
The bill includes components of the governor’s bonding proposal for local bridges and a five-cent increase in the fuel tax indexed for inflation that is partially offset by a $25 tax credit for low-income drivers.
Changes to the motor vehicle registration taxes, a dedication of motor vehicle lease sales taxes to transportation, and a half-cent metropolitan sales tax for local road and transit projects round out the package.
Minnesotans don't want, nor should they have to make a choice between safety and economic security. This bi-partisan approach to transportation would guarantee our worst roads and bridges are fixed and give the flagging economy a much-needed boost.
Another growth opportunity lies in the capital investment or “bonding bill,” which invests in state building projects and is slated to be taken up this month.
Legislators will give high priority to projects that can move quickly from drawing board to actual construction in order to maximize the potential stimulus of the anticipated 10,000 new jobs the bill will create.
Just as important as economic strength to Minnesota's future is our rich outdoor heritage.
During the first day of session we quickly moved the "Legacy Act" to a joint House-Senate conference committee to prepare for a final vote later in the week.
If passed as a constitutional amendment by voters this fall, the bill would dedicate a portion of the state sales tax (0.375 percent) to Minnesota's environment, natural resources, parks, and the arts.
After a decade of working to unite a diverse group of stakeholders, the choice to invest in Minnesota's natural resources will finally be in the hands of voters this fall.
Building a better future for Minnesota demands ingenuity and cooperation from each of us — young and old, private citizens and elected officials, Republicans and Democrats.
Our early work bodes well for the end result, and bolsters my optimistic outlook. Together we can protect the health and safety of Minnesotans, and create good jobs, a secure infrastructure and long-term economic competitiveness.
The results — “shining for all to see” — will be a strong, flourishing and united Minnesota.
Swails (DFL-Woodbury) represents District 56B in the Minnesota House. To contact her, call (651) 296-1147, 409 State Office Building, 100 Martin Luther King Blvd., St. Paul, MN 55155 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org