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Legislative News and Views - Rep. Leon Lillie (DFL)

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2014 Legislative Session is Off to a Great and Busy Start

Thursday, March 6, 2014
The 2014 Legislative Session is off to a great and busy start. I’m looking forward to working with you to build on the progress we made in 2013.
Our state has come a long way in just one year. A year ago we were facing a $600 million deficit and we owed our schools $800 million. Now, we have a project $1.23 billion budget surplus for the next biennium, property taxes are expected to decline for the first time in a decade, and our schools have been paid back in full. Additionally, employers added over 45,000 jobs last year, lowering our unemployment rate to 4.6 percent – one of the lowest rates in the country. 
With Minnesota on sound fiscal footing for the first time in years, we need to stay focused on helping families and businesses who have not yet felt the economic recovery.
Last Thursday, the House approved a tax bill that enacts federal tax conformity and recalls some business to business taxes. Federal tax conformity will make our state tax code simpler and eliminates unnecessary burdens like the so-called “marriage penalty.” Last year, my colleagues and I passed tax conformity legislation in the House, but it was not included in the final state budget. We also recalled three business to business taxes including the warehouse tax, farm equipment tax, and the telecommunication equipment tax. Thanks to a growing economy and a projected surplus, we are able to pay for additional middle tax cuts while maintaining a structurally balanced budget. 
Raising the minimum wage will help working Minnesotans provide for themselves and their families. Minnesota has the third lowest wage in the entire country, with the last increase happening nearly a decade ago. During that time, wages have not kept up with increasing costs of living such as food, housing, and transportation. Increasing the minimum wage will give hardworking Minnesotans more economic security and stability that they need and deserve. 
Another challenge we must address is the disproportionate barriers to economic security facing women in Minnesota. Women in our state on average earn only 80 cents for every dollar a man makes. In addition, women make up two-thirds of individuals earning at or below the minimum wage. That’s why my colleagues and I are working to pass the Women’s Economic Security Act this session – to ensure women have an equal opportunity to succeed. Our priorities include closing the gender pay gap, expanding paid sick leave, increasing access to high-quality and affordable childcare, and help women-owned small businesses grow and thrive. 
I hope we can work together this session to pass a strategic and bipartisan bonding bill. Putting aside our partisan differences to create good jobs while repairing and improving state assets like roads, bridges, and facilities at our public colleges and universities is not only smart economic policy, it’s simply the right thing to do. One project I am working on is to provide funding for the Harriet Tubman Center to be used as a service center for a domestic violence shelter, legal services, youth programs, mental and chemical health services, and community education.
Lawmakers are also focused on efforts to make government better, faster, simpler and more efficient for people and businesses – an idea Governor Dayton coined as the ‘Unsession.’ I’m hopeful that we can take some serious steps to cut red tape for businesses and streamline our state government by improving services, shortening wait times, and eliminating old and outdated rules.
As always, please contact me with any questions, comments, or ideas. You can reach me by phone at (651) 296-1188, by email at, or by postal mail at 371 State Office Building, 100 Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd., St. Paul, MN 55155.