By Clark Johnson
---- — After reading Al DeKruif’s June 19 commentary in The Free Press, we had to wonder which Legislature he was following this year, because our Minnesota Legislature compiled a very pro-business record this past session.
Reflect on what the DFL inherited. For nearly a decade, Minnesota had structural, ongoing deficits in the billions. Time and again agreement could not be reached on the hard decisions necessary to put Minnesota on a path to stable budgets while property taxes on middle class Minnesotans continued to increase.
We made some hard choices. We fixed our tax system to make it fairer by creating a fourth tax bracket that will affect only the wealthiest 2.1 percent of taxpayers (taxable income for joint filers greater than $250,000 per year and only for the income above that amount).
This group currently pays a smaller percentage of their income in state and local taxes than low-and middle-income earners.
We provided $400 million in middle class property tax relief. We also eliminated corporate loopholes that allow corporations to shelter profits overseas.
DeKruif expressed concerns about the future of small businesses. The DFL Legislature shares those concerns.
That’s why we passed legislation that levels the playing field between Minnesota bricks and mortar retailers and online retailers, simplified taxpaying with an upfront exemption for capital equipment, improved the Angel Investor and Historic Preservation Tax Credits, and encouraged business growth in greater Minnesota by exempting some business expansion from sales tax.
And our jobs bill gives Minnesota employers its biggest tax cut in state history — $346 million — by reducing the rate employers pay to fund the Unemployment Insurance Trust Fund.
We made serious investments in economic development — nearly $100 million. That includes $30 million for the Minnesota Investment Fund, a proven job creation tool.
Business needs talented and skilled workers to prosper. After years and years of cuts in funding to higher education, we increased funding by $250 million.
Students at MnSCU institutions and the University of Minnesota will benefit from a two-year tuition freeze. We established a Greater Minnesota Internship program to help keep talented young, educated adults in rural Minnesota.
Long term we used research-based strategies to help create and support the world’s best workforce. Increased funding of $485 million for our schools will better prepare our young children for success as learners through all day, every day kindergarten, early learning scholarships for low-income children, and increased per pupil funding that can support class-size reduction.
We provided significant support for Minnesota’s farmers this session: New investments were made in Minnesota’s Agriculture Growth, Research and Innovation (AGRI) fund that are designed to create economic growth in farm communities and funding was increased for the Minnesota Department of Agriculture (MDA) by $1.4 million.
We invested in the ag-economy workforce by providing grants to high school agriculture programs and scholarships for agriculture studies in college.
In addition, our budget extends the Farmer-Lender Mediation Act, provides needed funding for pollinator habitat restoration and creates a pilot Water Quality Certainty Program with the USDA with input from farmers and commodity groups.
Minnesotans do “have to decide what kind of a state they want to live in.” In our opinion the past legislative session has made some significant strides toward just that kind of state.
Rep. Clark Johnson, DFL-North Mankato, represents District 19A which includes North Mankato, St. Peter and parts of Mankato. Kathy Brynaert, DFL-Mankato, represents District 19B, which includes Mankato and Eagle Lake.