The Free Press, Mankato, MN

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December 22, 2013

People of Minnesota produced surplus

The principal credit for Minnesota’s terrific budget forecast belongs to the people of Minnesota. We proved again that we have the best business innovators and the most productive workers anywhere. By working hard and working together, we turned a $6 billion deficit predicted just 3 years ago, into a projected surplus of $1.086 billion over the next 18 months.

The financial experts, who prepared this forecast, made it clear that these surpluses are being generated by our state’s exceptionally strong economic growth. Minnesota’s economic recovery leads most states and the nation. 122,000 more people are working in Minnesota today than when I became governor in January 2011. The growth in our total state economy last year was the 5th best in the nation.

It is important to note, however, that this recovery has not helped everyone. 142,000 Minnesotans are still looking for work, and many others cannot find the jobs they want. There are still unacceptable gaps in education, job opportunities, and income among our citizens.

We have more work to do, but we are getting better.

It is sometimes hard to believe good economic news about Minnesota. Mostly we hear from the critics, who claim our policies are driving businesses and jobs elsewhere. Some of them even tried to make this recent good news look bad. They seem unhappy that our state’s economy is improving — because it doesn’t fit with their policy views or political ambitions.

Nevertheless, there is more good news. We have repaid all of the $2.8 billion previously borrowed from school districts. After a decade of education funding cuts, we are reinvesting in our schools and our schoolchildren — with early childhood scholarships, all-day kindergarten, and two-year tuition freezes at state colleges and universities.

Those investments are already showing results. 73 percent of Minnesota’s youngest children are now rated “ready for kindergarten,” compared with 60 percent in 2009. Our 4th grade students tested No. 1 in the nation for math and placed 10th in reading, up from 22nd two years earlier. And, for the 8th straight year, our high school seniors placed first in the ACT, a nationwide college entrance exam.

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