To the Editor:
In a recent letter, a local legislator says he is "bearish" on Minnesota's economic outlook and points the finger at Governor Dayton and the DFL Legislature. Thankfully, the facts and nearly every economic indicator bear out a much brighter economic reality in Minnesota.
The state's budget is in its best shape in more than a decade, our economic growth is outpacing the national average, and Minnesota has exceeded pre-recession jobs numbers. But don't take my word for it.
Just last week, the U.S. Department of Commerce reported Minnesota has the 13th-fasted growing economy in the country, outpacing the nation's GDP growth by a full percentage point. Especially relevant to those of us in southern Minnesota, our strong agriculture sector accounted for more than 20 percent of the state's growth - more than any other sector of our economy.
On June 19, the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development announced Minnesota has added 45,617 jobs in the past year, and our seasonally adjusted unemployment rate fell to 4.6 percent in May. That's our lowest unemployment rate in seven years and well below the national rate of 6.3 percent.
As of the most recent localized data from April, Martin County's unadjusted unemployment rate of 4.7 percent was in line with the statewide unadjusted rate of 4.5 percent.
We will continue to strive to do better as long as there are workers in our community who have not fully recovered from the recession, but Minnesota's economic momentum is clearly moving in the right direction.
Our state is better off than the rest of the U.S. in other important economic markers too. We have a higher percentage of the workforce with a diploma, a higher percentage with a college degree, a higher average per capita personal income and a lower poverty rate.
As for the state's budget, the most recent non-partisan forecast from last February showed a projected surplus of $1.2 billion. At the 2014 session's conclusion last month, we still had more than a $500 million projected surplus remaining for the next budget cycle.
Further, just in case of an unexpected economic downturn, this year the Legislature and the Governor put $150 million of the surplus into the state budget reserve, or rainy day fund, to protect taxpayers from bearing the brunt of any future budget deficits. By contrast, the last GOP majority "solved" the 2011 deficit by borrowing money from schools, underfunding rural nursing homes and passing costs on to local governments and your property taxes.
The "spending" that the previous letter attacks was largely invested in direct tax relief to individual taxpayers and businesses, spending that was passed with nearly unanimous bipartisan support. Two million Minnesotans will see tax relief because of the Legislature's work in the last two years.
At the same time, the DFL-led Legislature made education a priority, not only paying back what the GOP borrowed from schools, but also approving funding for statewide all-day kindergarten and more money for rural school districts.
The other major spending bill this session was the public works construction bill, or bonding bill, which earned the support of Democrats and Republicans from southern Minnesota. Across the state, these building projects will put more than 28,000 women and men to work on our roads, bridges, colleges, institutions and other infrastructure.
The truth is that no politician on either side of the aisle deserves the credit for our state's economic growth. That credit belongs with the workers, farmers, employers and innovators who are the engine of Minnesota's economy. But to say that the DFL legislature and Governor Dayton have slowed our growth is absurd. Indeed, the facts point to the opposite conclusion.
State Sen. Kathy Sheran,