By Roman Witucki, Guest Columnist
In October, the nation saw first-hand what happens when Republicans put politics before people: chaos, gridlock and Americans out of work. It took Democrats to take over the situation to get our country back on track and get more than 1 million Americans back to earning a paycheck to support their families.
Minnesota saw a similar situation in 2011, when former Republican Rep. Mike LeMieur, Sen. Paul Gazelka and their Republican majority, shut down state government. More than 20,000 Minnesotans went without a paycheck, state parks were shuttered and aid to some of our state’s most vulnerable citizens stopped.
Here’s another big contrast: LeMieur and Gazelka both collected their paychecks and benefits during their shutdown. DFL Congressman Rick Nolan introduced a bill this year that Congress shouldn’t receive pay during a shutdown. Republican Speaker Boehner wouldn’t bring it to the floor for a vote.
Shutdowns are caused by a refusal to compromise and Republicans refuse to do what’s best for the citizens who elect them. In 2012, Minnesota voters came together and said “no more” to the gridlock and put the Democratic-Farmer-Labor (DFL) Party back in charge of the Minnesota House of Representatives and Minnesota Senate.
And what did we get with DFL Gov. Mark Dayton and a DFL legislative majority? Progress.
Last month, it was announced that Minnesota ranks eighth on the “Forbes 2013 List of the Best States for Business.” In the “quality of life” category, Minnesota ranked fifth.
The strong quality of life measures included good schools, a low poverty rate and a healthy population.
Republicans (Rep. Ron)Kresha and Gazelka continue to talk about making Minnesota a “business-friendly” state. The DFL already did that and will continue to make it better.
In addition to the Forbes’ ranking, we also learned that Minnesota has recovered all the jobs lost during the Great Recession. Some regions of our state are seeing unemployment dip below 5 percent.
We are fortunate that the Democrats in Washington, D.C. brought the nation back from the brink of defaulting on our nation’s bills. Default would put our country into a tailspin and Minnesota could have lost the economic gains we’ve made in the past year.
We have a good quality of life and economic opportunity in Minnesota because DFLers have placed a high importance on education. Generations before us knew if they invested in our children, Minnesota would have the educated workforce needed to thrive.
Not only did DFLers expand all-day, free kindergarten to every student in the state, they increased K-12 funding, froze college tuition at the University of Minnesota and Minnesota State Colleges and Universities for two years and, most importantly, accelerated payback of the $2.8 billion Republicans borrowed from schools.
Yes, under “no new taxes,” Republicans held back critical state funding from our schools. Many had to take out loans to cover their debts and got stuck with the interest payments. DFLers said that wasn’t OK. Through accelerated payments, all but $200 million of that debt has been repaid.
Another indicator of the quality of life is how our state cares for the elderly. While Republicans and Gazelka cut programs and workers who care for our seniors and disabled Minnesotans, the DFL provided the first pay increase for nursing home and long-term care workers in more than four years.
In the 2014 general election, Minnesotans will once again elect state legislators, members of Congress, a U.S. senator and a governor. Remember that members of the DFL share a belief in equality, opportunity and success for all.
Roman Witucki lives in Little Falls and is the Morrison County DFL chair.