By Roman Witucki, Guest Columnist
The end of a year always is a good time for reflection. On behalf of the state of Minnesota, I’d like to reflect on 2013.
During the 2013 legislative session, under the leadership of Gov. Mark Dayton and a DFL-led Legislature, Minnesota has a balanced budget with investments for long-term success.
While Republicans “balanced” their state budget with gimmicks and borrowing money from schools, Gov. Dayton and the DFL produced an honest budget that will be sustained for the long term. After years of paying less in taxes than lower- and middle-income earners, the budget calls on the 54,000 richest Minnesotans, with an average salary of more than $600,000 a year, to pay a little more in income taxes.
Gov. Dayton and the DFL used this money to invest in education. A first-time ever major investment was made in our youngest learners. Studies show there is a big rate of return on every dollar spent to make sure children are ready for kindergarten.
Speaking of kindergarten, thanks to the DFL, all students in Minnesota will receive free all-day kindergarten. Up to now, all-day kindergarten was accessible only to families who could afford to pay and a school district who could afford to offer it. Now all students will have access to this great education opportunity.
And it’s not just young students who benefited in the 2013 legislative session. The DFL froze college tuition for two years at the University of Minnesota and Minnesota State College and University campuses.
By 2018, only four years away, 63 percent of job openings will require workers with at least some college education. The DFL wants to make it easier for students from lower- and middle-income families to have the chance to earn a degree and work toward a successful career.
That was the good news for the first half of the year, but it gets even better. Minnesota is ending 2013 with a projected $1.08 billion budget surplus.
Thanks to the budget surplus, the DFL was able to make the last payment on the more than $2 billion Republicans borrowed from our schools.
Remember the days when there were coupon booklets for car payments? And the feeling behind sending in that last coupon and knowing a debt was paid? Just think how DFL legislators feel knowing the Republican debt to schools is a thing of the past. I’m sure it’s a great feeling.
And the budget surplus goes hand-in-hand with good news about Minnesota’s economy in general: in October, Minnesota’s unemployment rate fell to 4.8 percent, the lowest rate since the recession began in December 2007; unemployment is continuing to fall; and wage and salary growth is exceeding expectations.
While Republicans predicted gloom and doom under Gov. Dayton and the DFL-led Legislature, this is not the case. Minnesota has turned a corner and is back on track for growth and prosperity.
DFL leaders will continue their work for opportunity for all residents so the state is prosperous for years to come.
Roman Witucki is the Morrison County DFL chair