To the editor,
Greater Minnesota workforce development is one of my top priorities as a legislator.
Rep. Tim Mahoney, a good friend of mine and a Democrat from St. Paul, recently mentioned my name in a letter to the editor regarding outstate jobs. I appreciate the opportunity to share more about what we House Republicans accomplished on this issue during the 2015 session. Here are just a few of the valuable provisions I supported this year:
Long-term care: Significantly increased funding for nursing homes and wages of long-term care providers. Also, directed a review of existing workforce development programs as to how they can further address the long-term care worker shortage in rural Minnesota.
Workforce housing: Invested in workforce housing grants to encourage market-based growth in our communities.
Skilled-job training: Extended a pilot program that issues grants to Greater Minnesota businesses to train their workers.
Skilled manufacturing: Increased funding for a program to train manufacturers for regional needs.
Manufacturing: Provided funding for a non-profit organization to promote manufacturing in Minnesota and assist operations in mitigating financing gaps in various stages of development.
PIPELINE: Continued funding for development of on-the-job training ("PIPELINE") competency standards to place, then train much-needed workers and fill open positions in Greater Minnesota.
Hearing-impaired workers: Directed funding to assist deaf, deafblind, and hard-of-hearing citizens in the workforce.
My legislative record on the Greater Minnesota economy speaks for itself. I have received numerous awards and endorsements by business groups, in part, for my consistent support of bonding packages which largely serve as our biennial "jobs" bills. Furthermore, I chair the House Legacy Committee, through which thousands of jobs are connected each year. Rep. Mahoney knows this first hand because in the Legacy Bill I included a provision that will result in construction jobs in his district.
Former chairman Mahoney rightly indicated I voted against his 2013 omnibus bill which included economic development provisions. Unfortunately, his bill also included $1 million for ex-felon rental assistance and life coaching, and a $10 million bailout for a St. Paul convention center. Rep. Mahoney's bill also brought $15 million in new and increased fees, part of the more than $2 billion hike in taxes, fees and penalties enacted under all-Democrat control in 2013-14.
Those fees hit all types of working folks – plumbers, barbers, hair dressers, grocers, accountants and more. Republicans offered many amendments to cut the waste from Rep. Mahoney's bill and re-focus that spending on actual job-creation programs, but those proposals were defeated in party-line votes. In the end, the drawbacks in his bill vastly outweighed the worthy provisions and I followed my conscience and constituents by voting "no."
Omnibus bills, by their very nature, allow for isolation of certain provisions that may be used to perpetuate political narratives. I prefer to look at the big picture and focus on positive results I have helped deliver with fellow House Republicans to benefit Greater Minnesota and the state in general.
Rep. Dean Urdahl