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Viewpoint: Minnesota’s finances on solid ground

Minnesota has the fifth-fastest growing economy in the nation, and it’s no accident.

February brought great news for all Minnesotans. The office of Minnesota Management and Budget announced that Minnesota has a $1.2 billion surplus. In just the past 15 months, we have gone from $1.1 million in the red to $1.2 million in the black. And it gets better. Early projections have Minnesota’s surplus for the 2016-17 biennium at $2.6 billion.

How’d we get here? It wasn’t because tax increases, as some argue. We put an end to a decade of budgeting through smoke and mirrors and put the state on a path of financial stability. We did this primarily by investing in education and tools proven to create jobs — innovative investments that have allowed Minnesota employers grow their businesses and expand their workforce. In fact, we passed the largest business tax cut in state history — $346 million.

These are just a few of the reasons Minnesota has the fifth-fastest growing economy in the nation and is the envy of our neighbors — even Wisconsin.

We have our first structural budget surplus in more than eight years, and for the first time in 10 years property taxes in Minnesota actually declined. Minnesota employers added 46,000 workers to their payrolls in the last year after struggling out of the Great Recession.

It’s now the job of lawmakers to get some of that surplus headed back into Minnesotans’ pockets while making sure we continue our remarkable economic recovery.

That’s why one of the first things we did when we convened this session was pass a $500 million tax cut bill. It provides more than $200 million in middle-class tax cuts to hundreds of thousands of Minnesotans through federal tax conformity. The “Marriage Penalty Fix” will provide $111 million for middle-income married families by increasing standard deductions for married filers. More than 650,000 families — a vast majority of them earning less than $75,000 — will see an average tax decrease of $120.

I’m focused on providing more middle class and business tax cuts, making statewide investments in education, jobs and economic development, allocating additional funding for our home health care workers who provide care for our elderly and disabled and creating balanced and stable budgets for Minnesota’s future.

Some in the Legislature want you to believe the economy is like a train headed toward the end of the tracks. Don’t buy a ticket for that ride.

Minnesota is on solid ground and gaining steam.

Dan Schoen, DFL-St. Paul Park, represents House District 54A, which includes St. Paul Park, Newport, Grey Cloud Island, part of Cottage Grove and part of South St. Paul.