With 100 votes, Minnesota House lawmakers Wednesday approved legislation that will create and protect tens of thousands of jobs.
The nearly $2 billion package would be a major boon to Minnesota’s economy at a time when the unemployment rate is stuck at historically high levels due to the pandemic. House Republicans previously blocked passage of similar jobs bills in May and July.
“We listened to Minnesotans who have been asking for our help,” said House Capital Investment Chair Mary Murphy (DFL-Hermantown). “This economic stimulus bill connects Minnesotans to other Minnesotans, addresses critical public infrastructure needs across the state, and will create thousands of jobs at a time when they are sorely needed. I am grateful to everyone who contributed to this important jobs and local projects and economic development package.”
“Rep. Rob Ecklund (DFL – International Falls) said he's grateful for the local leaders and community members "who have worked so hard to earn funding for these important projects. Investments like these not only help make regions like ours such an excellent place to live and visit, but will create some good paying construction jobs at a time when too many folks are out of work.
“This bill also funds other important priorities such as keeping the Togo and Willow River prisons open, and a wage increase for PCAs (personal care attendants) who provide vital services in our communities at a time when they are facing increased exposure to COVID-19. It’s no secret we’re going through some difficult times, and this bill will help accelerate our economic recovery," he added.
According to the most recent data released by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the unemployment rate stands at 7.9 percent and job gains were lower than expected in September. The US economy is still 11 million jobs short of pre-pandemic levels.
“All Minnesotans deserve safe, healthy, and inclusive communities,” said House Speaker Melissa Hortman. “At a time when Minnesota's economy is suffering extreme stress due to the COVID-19 pandemic, it is important that the state legislature do everything it can to create jobs and stimulate economic growth. This bill will create jobs and provide projects our communities need."
The critically-needed economic development legislation contains significant investment in public safety and health renovations, repairs, and replacement of public assets like higher education institutions, clean water infrastructure, correctional facilities, roads and bridges, parks and trails, municipal buildings and more. Notably, the new bill released today contains $116 million to fund affordable housing projects. For the first time in legislative history, $30 million is being allocated to projects to help improve and promote equity in communities across the state.
Data from public health officials around the country show that COVID-19 is impacting people of color at disproportionate rates. According to a University of Minnesota study published in August, Black people account for 25 percent of COVID-19 hospitalizations in Minnesota but 7 percent of the state's population, while Hispanic people make up 16% of hospitalizations but 6 percent of the population.
“Minnesotans are asking the Legislature to invest in the things that will help them weather these difficult times and thrive when the pandemic ends,” said House Majority Leader Ryan Winkler. “This legislation will save and create thousands of jobs across our state, support our working families, and help build a better future for all Minnesotans.”
The bill includes supplemental budget investments in Direct Care and Treatment programs at the Department of Human Services, corrections funding that will allow the Willow River and Togo correctional facilities to remain open, funding to ensure untested rape kits get tested to bring sexual predators to justice, and temporary pay increases for personal care assistants who care for vulnerable Minnesotans.
“We’ve sent the Minnesota Senate an excellent bill that is going to boost our economy and improve the quality of life for people across our state,” said Rep. Paul Marquart (DFL-Dilworth), who authored the portion of the bill that cuts taxes for farmers and small businesses. Specifically, Rep. Marquart’s provision addresses the lack of Section 179 Conformity in the 2019 Special Session Tax Bill. Section 179 allows businesses and farmers to deduct certain property costs from income taxes in the first year of investment, rather than over five years, which is advantageous when making large capital investments.
The House DFL local jobs and projects bill is the result of a year-long conversation with Minnesotans that involved collecting public feedback, touring project sites, meeting with local officials in their own communities, and holding dozens of legislative hearings.