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Column: 2014 Legislature: tax cuts, school lunches and good news for Duluth

We’re only at the halfway mark, but the 2014 Legislature has already racked up some signature accomplishments.

Propane: On the first day of the session, we increased funding to the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program. Diminished supply and a spike in demand of propane led to skyrocketing prices and increased applications for energy assistance. Quick action ensured that families were able to continue to heat their homes during this cold winter.

Tax cut: We passed a major tax cut bill that provided relief to middle class families and Minnesota businesses. More than one million Minnesotans will see $225 million in tax cuts due to federal conformity, elimination of the “marriage penalty,” and a boost to the state’s Working Family Credit.

School lunches: The House also quickly acted on an outrageous situation by unanimously passing legislation to ensure all children receive a hot school lunch, regardless of their ability to pay. (In February Mid-Minnesota Legal Aid reported that 15 percent of the state’s school districts refuse meals to students who can’t pay. About half the districts provide a less nutritious meal to those who can’t afford a reduced-price hot lunch.)

But that was only the beginning. We’re ready to tackle even more.

Bonding: We just released the House bonding bill on April 1. I’m happy to say that it brought great news for Duluth.

Seven projects totaling nearly $60 million will receive funds in this bill:

  • $4.4 million for Wade Ballpark.
  • $6.95 million for the NorShor Theater.
  • $24 million for a chemical sciences and advanced materials building at the University of Minnesota-Duluth.
  • $3.4 million for Spirit Mountain’s water system.
  • $3.5 million for Lake Superior College’s Allied Health Science building.
  • $3.75 million for port development assistance for the Duluth Port Authority.
  • $7.3 million for the Public Facilities Authority Wastewater Infrastructure Fund, Western Lake Superior Sanitary District.
  • $3.5 million for PFA Wastewater Infrastructure Fund, Duluth’s CIPP project.
  • $2 million for Mission Creek stream protection and restoration.

Bonding projects create jobs and promote economic development all across Minnesota. I am very pleased that all of the projects that I supported are in the House bonding bill.

A second tax bill: We’ve introduced a second tax cut bill. I believe that Minnesota is only as strong as its middle class, and this bill will continue our mission to help it recover from the hits it took in the last 10 years.

This second bill will cut taxes largely through further property tax relief. The bill includes $45 million in targeted property tax relief to Minnesota homeowners, renters and farmers. Homeowners will benefit from a one-time three percent increase in their property tax refund next year, renters a one-time six percent increase.

Broadband: I’ve introduced a bill that would invest $100 million to continue improving the state’s broadband infrastructure. Our future partly depends on whether all Minnesotans have high quality, high speed access to the Internet – the engine that will drive our state’s economy in the 21st century. Right now, they don’t.

If we were able to cover 95 percent of the state, it would increase our household incomes by $440 million, create more than 15,000 jobs and inject more than $1 billion in the state’s gross domestic product. This has the potential to be a game-changer in the lives of thousands of our neighbors.

The Greater Minnesota Initiative: We’ve introduced legislation to expand economic opportunity in Greater Minnesota for individuals, families, farmers and businesses. A key component is a nearly $10 million investment in economic development resources to support rural job growth and the business sectors critical to rural economies, such as expanding a small business revolving fund that offer loans and gap financing for small businesses.

Women’s Economic Security: The House DFL believes that gender should not play a role in success. That’s why we’ve introduced the Women’s Economic Security Act. The act would close the gender pay gap by requiring private businesses that contract with the state to report on pay

equity. It increases income for working women and their families by raising the minimum wage to $9.50. It expands access to high-quality, affordable child care and expands family and sick leave.

There’s a lot on our plate, but it doesn’t compare to what’s on yours. My job for the remainder of this session is to be a strong advocate for you and your family at the legislature.

Erik Simonson (DFL) is the Minnesota state representative for district 7B.

Erik Simonson

Erik Simonson, DFL-Duluth, represents District 7 in the Minnesota Senate. He may be contacted at (651) 296-4188.

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