By Foung Hawj
Minn. Dist. 67 State Senator
ST. PAUL (May 21, 2014) — Now that the 2014 Session is officially wrapped up, I’m happy to say we’ve made real progress and gains for the people of East St. Paul.
The Session started off with good news that the state had a $1.2 billion surplus – the first time in many years. The Legislature gave close to half of that surplus back in the form of tax credits and property tax relief for more than two million Minnesotans.
The news is particularly good if you are married, receiving the Working Family Tax Credit or if you are paying student loans or tuition. More money in the pockets of my constituents to spend in our local economy is a good thing.
We also made significant gains in education with the passage of the Safe Schools Act which ensures all Minnesota school children can learn in a safe and bully-free environment. Following last year’s historic $485 million investment in education, this year we invested an additional $54 million to help narrow the achievement gap and make sure every child is ready to enter kindergarten.
This year the Legislature raised Minnesota’s minimum wage, gradually increasing to $9.50 per hour by 2016 – improving wages significantly for the state’s 357,000 minimum wage workers. Both houses also passed 5 percent Campaign legislation which called for a 5 percent increase in wages for home and community based caregivers which will help maintain quality care for thousands across the state. I’m proud of my fellow DFL Senate colleagues for accomplishing so much in just 12 short weeks.
Several of the bills I authored also passed this session including simplifying some unemployment insurance statutes, reducing taxes for the city of St. Paul on River Center payback, and enhancing electronic access during St. Paul Port Authority board meetings. A bill of mine also passed that requires the DNR to compile a list that is updated quarterly on known wolf deaths. This list then must be made available on the DNR’s website.
But the most significant piece of legislation we passed did not come about until the very last day of Session. The Legislature’s $1.171 billion bonding bill encompasses projects from all corners of the state. The investment package includes projects in higher education, transportation, housing and infrastructure and corrections and public safety.
I’m proud to say our district is well represented in the bonding bill, with $35.86 million heading to Metro State for a new Science Education Center, and $450,000 for the Hmong-Lao Veterans Memorial. Plans for the memorial have been in the works for close to a decade, and finally ground will be broken soon, with the memorial slated to open sometime next summer.
While the 2014 Session has wrapped up, I will be around all summer and am happy to hear from any of my constituents. With a full biennium under my belt, I’m looking forward to the next biennium and future successes for East St. Paul.