- Go! Northfield-Dundas
- Submit Content
David Bly, We All Do Better
Member of Minnesota House of Representatives District 20B
Updated: 1 hour 36 min ago
More than 325,000 Minnesotans will benefit from the Minimum Wage Law passed this week. According to an article in the Star Tribune, a Minnesotan who earns $6.15 per hour working full time earns an annual salary of $12,792 — about $7,000 below the poverty line. Raising the minimum wage to $9.50 per hour brings that same worker’s salary within $30 of closing that gap. During my speech on the House floor, I stressed that historically a rise in the minimum wage results in growth in the local economy because families have more to spend. I also said that this law will go far address our nation’s income inequality which favors big business but doesn’t favor people. Minnesota has had one of the lowest minimum wages in the nation, and it was a personal goal of mine when I was elected as a Representative to address this issue. People who work full-time shouldn’t have to live so far below the poverty line.
A Session Daily article provides details of the bill:
- $8 minimum hourly wage for businesses with gross sales of at least $500,000 in August 2014, $9 in August 2015 and $9.50 one year later;
- $6.50 minimum hourly wage for businesses under $500,000 in gross sales in 2014, $7.25 in August 2015 and $7.75 one year later;
- the $7.75 minimum wage rate would also apply for large businesses in the following circumstances: 90-day training wage for 18 and 19 year olds, all 16 and 17 year olds and employees working under a J1 visa;
- beginning in 2018, all wages would increase each year on Jan. 1 by inflation measured by the implicit price deflator capped at 2.5 percent; and
- the indexed increase could be suspended for one year by the commissioner of the Department of Labor and Industry if leading economic indicators indicate the possibility of a substantial downturn in the economy. The suspension could only be implemented after a public hearing and public comment period. In better economic times, the suspended inflationary increase or a lesser amount could be added back into the minimum wage rate in a subsequent year.
Several hundred thousand Minnesota families can expect an increase in their property tax refunds: homeowners can see a three percent increase in their property tax refunds and renters can expect a six percent increase if the full legislature passes the recommendation of the House’s Property Tax and Local Division Report. For those who have submitted their property tax refund forms, the increase will be calculated automatically and no additional forms need to be filed. The St. Paul Pioneer Press reports that the bill’s sponsor, Rep. Ann Lenczewski, says “We believe this is a responsible way to continue expanding our economy from the middle-out while maintaining our stable budget into the future.”
The Minnesota Budget Project reports that in 2011, the Renters Credit was cut by 13 percent, and this action is a step towards mitigating that cut, but it doesn’t completely cancel out the decrease.
This year’s bonding proposal/cash plan which came out of the House Capital Investment Committee was released today. It includes $914.6 million in projects, $850 million of which will need to be borrowed through the bonding process. The University of Minnesota and MnSCU will both receive money for projects including $56 million to renovate the Tate Laboratory of Physics and $51 million for the Bell Museum and Planetarium. Expansion of civic centers in Rochester, Mankato and St. Cloud will receive funding, as well as renovations to Minneapolis’s Nicollet Mall and St. Paul’s Children’s Museum. Bridge replacement, local road improvement, land acquisition for trails, and soil and water protection projects are also in the plan. A full accounting of what was approved for the bonding part of the bill and the projects which will be paid for in cash demonstrate the comprehensive statewide plan.
A hearing on the bill is scheduled today during the meeting of the Capital Investment Committee. Bonding bills must have approval from three/fifths of the members of both houses. The bill has not yet been introduced in the Senate.
According to the MNsure.org website, 2014 open enrollment closed on March 31, 2014. The next open enrollment period will be November 15, 2014 through February 15, 2015, with coverage taking effect no earlier than January 1, 2015. Consumers will not be able to enroll in a Qualified Health Plan inside or outside of MNsure unless they have a life event that qualifies them for special open enrollment period.
Year-round enrollment IS available for individuals who qualify for MinnesotaCare and Medical Assistance, as well as for small employers through the Small Business Health Options Program (SHOP). American Indians may enroll in MNSure at any time.
If you filled out the MNsure Enrollment Attempt Form by 11:59PM on Monday, March 31, you will be contacted soon to complete enrollment and will not be subject to a penalty.
The numbers as of midnight on March 31 are: Below are the enrollment numbers as of midnight last night, which far exceed the goal.
169,251 – TOTAL
47,046 QHP (commercial health plans)
87,986 in Medical Assistance
In addition, 36,000 people have filled out the attempt form!
A sampling of personal stories can be found on MNsure’s 20 days, 20 stories page.
The House is considering a bill with a variety of ideals to benefit Minnesotans. Among them are:
- A new farm-to-food shelf program would provide incentives for farmers to give their unsold produce to food shelves. Of the department’s $1.7 million in new spending for fiscal year 2015, $1.5 million would be allocated to the non-profit food bank Second Harvest Heartland for the program.
The funding would be used to compensate farmers for the cost of gathering and packaging crops that they otherwise would throw away. Earlier in the session, bill supporters cited U.S. Department of Agriculture statistics that Minnesota farmers grow 210 million pounds of vegetables and fruits a year that either aren’t harvested or aren’t sold after they’re harvested.
- The bill would also compensate beekeepers when their bees are killed by pesticides by providing $100,000 from the General Fund and $150,000 from a pest regulatory account to pay claims. Compensation would be available in certain instances, including when the person who applied the pesticide can’t be determined or the person applied the pesticide in a manner consistent with its labeling. The program would function similar to wolf and elk depredation programs.
Other provisions include the “puppy mill bill” which would create an inspection and licensing process for dog and cat breeders, and funding for environmental projects. A summary in this Session Daily link.
The House Jobs and Economic Development Finance and Policy Committee heard arguments for expanding broadband in the State.
“Broadband is the future of Minnesota,” said Rep. Erik Simonson (DFL-Duluth). “Minnesota lags behind in technology. Good broadband is a need and it’s frustrating to people when they don’t have the tools that they need.”
According to Session Daily, the supplemental omnibus jobs and economic development finance bill, also known as HF 2976, contains a one-time appropriation of $25 million for a broadband development grant program and an additional $450,000 for broadband mapping across the state. The grant funds would be available to areas of the state that are unserved, those who don’t have access to the federally provider-required download speed of four megabits per second; or those who don’t have access to the state’s provider-required download speed of 10 to 20 megabits per second.
Communities that don’t have access to high-speed internet service are at a disadvantage to metropolitan communities as internet service is a key factor to economic development. Online sales are increasing, job recruitment and applications are increasingly done via the internet, and online advertising gives companies an advantage. ConnectMinnesota claims that business establishments that use broadband report median annual revenues that are approximately $200,000 higher than businesses that do not use broadband.
Annandale is one community that reports slow speeds and frequent outages prove difficult for businesses that can’t process credit card transactions, and for medical facilities that can’t access patient records or fill prescriptions when the system goes down. “This is a very pervasive issue in our community,”Annandale City Councilwoman Shelly Jonas said. “During an outage, businesses can’t use web-based technology. It effects the quality of life overall.”
The bill now moves to the House Ways and Means Committee.
About 1 in 10 Minnesotans will see tax cuts this year as a result of the tax cut package passed by the legislature. The Department of Revenue is working to provide guidance to tax filers to make sure they can take full advantage:
If you have not yet filed your 2013 taxes, you should wait until after April 3, 2014.
·The Department of Revenue will have their online systems updated by then to account for tax refund changes.
·You can see if the new laws will apply to you by visiting the Minnesota Department of Revenue’s website.
If you have already filed your 2013 taxes, you don’t need to do anything right now.
·The Department of Revenue will be mailing refunds as usual and then reviewing returns that they received before the changes went into effect.
·They will be doing this review after the April 15th tax deadline and then sending out any refund increase by whatever means you elected to receive your refund.
·If you are eligible for a refund, the Department of Revenue will be able to make the necessary changes to your return with the tax documents you provided. If they are unable to do so, they will individually contact you by postal mail to request necessary documents to amend your return.