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New Legislative Session Begins with Minnesota House Passing $20 million in Heating Assistance

St. Paul, Minnesota – Today, the Minnesota House of Representatives started their legislative session by passing a bill to increase funding to the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP). The bill would appropriate $20 million from the state’s General Fund for fiscal year 2014 and any unspent funds as of June 30, 2014 would return to the General Fund.

Representatives John Persell (DFL – Bemidji) is confident this productive start will help build on the progress made during the 2013 Legislative Session.

“This first step is important for families across Minnesota because it really has become a matter of survival for some of our fellow Minnesotans,” said Rep. Persell. “I hope we can use this first bill can help set a positive tone for members on both sides of the aisle to help the Legislature get important work done this session.”

Last session began with the legislature facing a $600 million deficit and $800 million in debt to Minnesota schools. The legislature passed a balanced budget last year and now all of the money borrowed from schools has been paid back and the state is anticipating a $850 million budget surplus. Additionally, Minnesota created more than 50,000 jobs in 2013 and has fully regained all the jobs lost during the Great Recession.

This session, action began quickly. Aside from the passing of heating assistance, the House Taxes Committee was meeting to discuss middle-class tax relief through federal tax conformity and the repeal of business-to-business taxes, including the warehouse tax, farm equipment repair tax, and the telecommunications equipment tax. Rep. Roger Erickson (DFL – Baudette) is confident that each of these will be addressed this session.

“These are critical steps for us to take,” said Rep. Erickson. “Our economy is doing well and we need to do everything we can to help our local businesses, loggers, and farmers do well moving forward.”

Legislators will also be working to pass a statewide bonding bill. Because bonding bills require a three-fifths majority, the bill will need bipartisan support.

Another focal point will be an increase in the state’s minimum wage. Minnesota’s current minimum wage is $6.15, while the federal minimum wage is $7.25. Only two states — Georgia and Wyoming — have a lower minimum wage than Minnesota.

Finally, Governor Dayton has deemed the 2014 Session as the “Unsession,” a chance to make state government more efficient and better serve taxpayers.


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