Skip to main content Skip to office menu Skip to footer
Capital IconMinnesota Legislature

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

Back to profile

2014 End of Session Update

Thursday, May 22, 2014
Dear Friend:
The adjournment of the House of Representatives on May 16 brought to a close an incredibly productive 2013-2014 legislative biennium.  Given the significance of what was achieved, I thought you might appreciate a recap of some of the accomplishments.      
When the 2013-2014 biennium began on January 8, 2013, Minnesota faced a $627 million deficit, we owed our schools over $800 million, and property taxes were on the rise. Fortunately, the 2013 Legislature began to move Minnesota in a different direction, electing to invest in hardworking families and middle-class Minnesotans by: 
  • Paying back the money borrowed from our schools.
  • Making historic investments in education, from early childhood to college, including a tuition freeze at our public postsecondary institutions, free all-day kindergarten for every child for the first time in state history, and an early childhood scholarship program that will give thousands more youngsters access to high-quality early learning opportunities.  
  • Reducing the property tax burden for middle-class Minnesotans via direct relief to homeowners and renters resulting in the first statewide property tax decrease in more than a decade.  
  • Creating more jobs through investments in initiatives like the Minnesota Investment Fund, which helps to bring new businesses to our state and helps existing businesses expand.
  • Providing a major tax cut for Minnesota’s employers.
  • Closing corporate tax loopholes.  
  • Enacting a fair and balanced budget that replaces a decade of “all-cuts and gimmicks” budgeting.
Since then, Minnesota’s economy has grown, the unemployment rate dropped, and the deficit turned into a surplus.  This year the Legislature built upon the successes of the 2013 session, and continued to move Minnesota forward in significant ways.  For example:  
Nowhere is Minnesota’s positive direction more evident than when looking at the state’s “bottom line.” After a decade of deficits and “budget gimmicks,” Minnesota now has a stable budget into the future. Last year we balanced our deficit honestly and this year we had a $1.2 billion surplus. We utilized our surplus responsibly, providing middle-class tax cuts, making key investments in bread-and-butter priorities like education, and strengthening our budget reserve to keep our budget structurally balanced into the future.  
In 2014 the Legislature provided approximately $200 million in middle class income tax relief by conforming Minnesota’s income tax code to key federal provisions.  Conformity reduces taxpayer confusion, makes filing the state income tax simpler, and provides tax benefits that Minnesotans expect.  For example, the marriage penalty was fixed, and the dependent care credit and working family credits were improved.  Families paying higher education tuition or who have student loans will also benefit.  
The Legislature also continued efforts begun last year to keep property taxes in check. The Legislature enacted a major property tax relief plan, which will provide $45 million in additional direct property tax relief to 980,000 homeowners, renters, and farmers:
All told, more than 2 million Minnesotans will benefit from tax cuts passed by the 2014 Legislature.    
Last year, the Legislature brought a decade of disinvestment in education to an end, making historic investments to fund all-day kindergarten and freeze tuition at our public colleges and universities.  This year the state’s commitment to education continued.  Among other things, a $25 per pupil increase in the funding formula was enacted.  Perhaps most important, school lunch aid was increased to ensure that students are not denied a hot meal at lunchtime.  Special financial assistance will also be provided to school districts to guarantee that all kindergartners, regardless of ability to pay, receive breakfast.   
More than 50,000 jobs have been created in Minnesota since the 2013-2014 biennium began, which means all of the jobs lost during the Great Recession have been recovered.  This session the Legislature continued to build on that progress by focusing on job creation and economic development.  For example, $20 million was allocated to expand broadband Internet access in unserved or underserved areas of the state.  Increased access to broadband service will help drive job creation, promote innovation, and expand markets for Minnesota businesses, particularly those in Greater Minnesota.    
Growing Minnesota’s economy and job base means more than just technological advances, however.  That is why this session the Legislature adopted, with broad bipartisan support, the Women’s Economic Security Act (WESA).  This new law strives to close the “wage gap” and promote the overall economic standing of women and their families by investing in initiatives that: (1) help women enter and stay in high-wage, high-demand, non-traditional occupations; and (2) promote the creation and expansion of women-owned businesses.  WESA’s provisions also eliminate barriers to the economic well-being of women and their families by ensuring equal pay for equal work, expanding parenting and sick leave for working families, and enhancing employment protections for pregnant workers.  When women have equal opportunities to succeed, it means stronger families, stronger communities, and a healthier Minnesota economy.
This year the Legislature also addressed the needs of Minnesota’s lowest paid workers.  The minimum wage will begin a phased-in increase in August 2014—boosting the wages of over 300,000 Minnesotans.         
In an ongoing effort to create good paying jobs and support our state’s improving economic health, the Legislature enacted a bipartisan capital investment package containing $1.1 billion in strategic investments spread through every corner of the state. These measures will provide thousands of private sector jobs and fund crucial investments in college campuses, roads, bridges, wastewater treatment plants, flood prevention and mitigation, parks & trails, housing, and other important infrastructure.  
Clearly, Minnesota has momentum, but there is more work to be done to ensure we keep our middle class strong, and our state and community headed in the right direction.   Looking forward, we must continue to address the bread-and-butter issues vital to Minnesota’s future.  It is my hope that in upcoming sessions we can build upon the significant achievements enacted during the 2013-2014 biennium.  I am committed to working on a bipartisan basis for the good of our community, and I will always place Minnesota's long-term needs ahead of partisan politics.  To that end, I look forward to spending this summer and fall visiting with you and other members of our community about how we keep our state moving forward. 
Thank you for the privilege of serving you in the Minnesota Legislature.  Please always feel free to contact me whenever I can be of assistance.
Leon M. Lillie
State Representative