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Rep. Paul Marquart, Published December 21 2013

Letter: Thanks for Minnesota progress

The holiday season is a time of year when Minnesotans pause to reflect on what we’re thankful for.

Three things come to mind: an honestly balanced state budget, new investments in education, and a steadily improving economy thanks to hard-working Minnesotans and businesses.

To appreciate progress we made in 2013, it’s important to step back and look at where we were roughly one year ago.

Before the 2013 legislative session kicked off on Jan. 8, Minnesota faced a $627 million budget deficit, owed debts totaling more than $800 million to our schools, and shouldered one of the worst achievement gaps in the entire nation. We suffered a decade of disinvestment, damaging our ability to compete for good jobs and give our kids the tools needed to succeed in the classroom.

The new DFL-led Legislature didn’t waste any time. We rolled up our sleeves and got to work on Day One.

After countless hours of talking with constituents, listening to public and expert testimony in committee hearings, and debating dozens of bills on the House floor, we wrapped up the 2013 legislative session on time and passed an honest state budget that sets Minnesota up for economic success.

The results speak for themselves.

First, look at the state of Minnesota’s finances.

The DFL budget paid off the $627 million deficit we inherited from Republicans and established a plan to accelerate repayment of the money borrowed from schools by previous legislatures.

Second, consider the short- and long-term impacts of new investments in education.

New funding for every school this year and next is reducing overcrowded classrooms so more students can get the one-on-one attention from teachers needed for academic success. We targeted investments to efforts and strategies with proven results and where taxpayers get the most “bang for their buck,” including areas like all-day kindergarten and early learning scholarships.

Third, check out Minnesota’s monthly jobs reports and unemployment rate.

Employers have added nearly 50,000 jobs over the past year. By August, we had regained all the jobs lost during the Great Recession. And our most recent jobs report shows that Minnesota’s unemployment rate fell.

The facts paint a bright picture that should give us every reason to be optimistic about our future.

However, not every Minnesotan has felt this recovery. That’s why lawmakers plan to take some key steps during the 2014 legislative session to build on our positive momentum so more people can find a good job to support themselves and their families.

As we prepare to wrap up 2013, signs show that we’re on a path toward economic growth and greater prosperity for the middle class. That’s something all Minnesotans can give thanks for.

Marquart, DFL-Dilworth, is a seven-term member of the Minnesota House. He is chairman of the Education Finance Committee.