There was a lot of action this week at the Capitol, with legislative deadlines looming and important legislation on the move. However, there was also a lot of great work being done around government reform and improving services for all Minnesotans.
Today, the Governor stood with Department of Education Commissioner Brenda Cassellius to celebrate yet another competitive federal grant award for MDE. Today’s grant money brings the total amount of new money won by the department under the Dayton administration to nearly $119 million. These reforms (and the funding we have won as a result) mean that our state’s schools continue to improve and that Minnesota is returning to a role as a national leader in education.
Earlier this week, Human Services Commissioner Cindy Jesson did a wonderful job of trumpeting her Department’s work to save taxpayers money while still ensuring that their programs serve Minnesotans well. The Department of Human Services has established a new Office of the Inspector General to root out waste and fraud in social service programs.
Last week Governor Mark Dayton signed legislation that will remove a trade barrier currently in place for Minnesota agricultural businesses looking to export commercial feed to Brazil. This piece of legislation will allow Minnesota companies to remain competitive in the global export market while at the same time recognize the importance of good manufacturing standards.
Recently imposed import regulations set in Brazil require companies that send feed to the country to provide a certificate of Good Manufacturing Practices compliance, yet this certificate is not expected to be implemented for several months. Without a process for providing the certificate required by Brazil, Minnesota companies would be unable to supply feed to that large and growing market. The Minnesota Department of Agriculture and the state legislators worked together to pass House File (HF) 1926 that would create a temporary process for issuing a state certificate of Good Manufacturing Practices for Minnesota companies that produce commercial feed.
Governor Mark Dayton’s New Jobs New Jobs Tax Credit is focused on immediate job creation. It would provide businesses with a $3,000 tax credit for each unemployed Minnesotan, Veteran or recent graduate hired in calendar year 2012 and a $1,500 credit for each new hire through June 2013. This $35 million initiative would create over 10,000 new, private-sector jobs each year.
As Minnesota emerges from a deep recession, the focus of the legislature needs to remain on job creation. Today, 55,000 more people are employed than at the height of the recession, but many more remain jobless. The New Jobs Tax Credit is designed to give local businesses an incentive to hire unemployed Minnesotans, especially those who were hardest hit by the recession, Minnesota veterans and recent college graduates.
Minnesota National Guard’s Adjutant General, Richard Nash, recently reported that of the over 3,000 Minnesota Guardsmen and women presently serving in Kuwait, 22% of them will be unemployed, when they return home. The New Jobs Tax Credit will ensure that we reverse this shameful fact and make sure all of Minnesota’s veterans return to jobs in their hometowns across the state of Minnesota.
This week marks the 39th annual National Agriculture Week, which raises national awareness about the crucial role agriculture plays in providing people with the nutrition essential for everyday life. In the State of Minnesota, agriculture accounts for more than $15.1 billion in farm income and more than $5 billion in agriculture exports annually. Agriculture is essential to the state’s health and economy, which is why Governor Mark Dayton recently declared the week of March 4-10 as Minnesota Agriculture Week.
In honor of Natural Agriculture Week, we wanted to highlight the work of Commissioner Dave Frederickson, who is dedicated to advocating for Minnesota’s farmers. Commissioner Frederickson knows rural issues well; he grew up in a farm family and operated his own farm for over 20 years near Murdock, Minnesota. He served one of Minnesota’s most agrarian districts in the State Senate, where he advocated for agriculture, education, and rural development. Commissioner Frederickson continued to serve our state farmers by working as president of the Minnesota Farmers Union and as an agricultural outreach director for US Senator Amy Klobuchar. Being appointed Commissioner of Agriculture by Governor Mark Dayton was just the next step in a lifetime of service on behalf of farmers across Minnesota and throughout our nation.
This week, we saw the real results that can be achieved by a Governor who has an unwavering commitment to putting Minnesotans back to work. This week was full of encouraging developments for Minnesotans who are looking for work, in large part to the efforts of Governor Dayton and his administration.
On Tuesday, we found out that there are nearly 50,000 vacant jobs in our state, an increase of almost 50% from this time last year. While there is still work to be done to ensure that our workforce has the skills they need to fill those jobs, the most recent job vacancy survey released by DEED this week is reason to be hopeful.
On Wednesday and Thursday, the legislature finally held hearings on the Governor’s jobs proposals. His tax credit for hiring unemployed Minnesotans, veterans and recent graduates would put up to 10,000 people back to work by providing tax incentives to businesses. The Governor’s proposed expansion of FastTRAC was also heard. Expanding FastTRAC statewide will be crucial in ensuring that our state’s workers have the skills they need to fill the jobs that are available now and in the future.
The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources is dedicated to preserving and enhancing the environment of Minnesota and preserving our natural heritage for generations to come. The DNR employs 2,700 workers and does everything from maintaining state parks to defending our waters from invasive species. Such a broad and comprehensive agency needs a capable, experienced, enthusiastic leader, and DNR Commissioner Tom Landwehr certainly fits the bill. His credentials have not gone untested; just one year into his term, Commissioner Landwehr has combated Asian carp, conserved natural grassland, and convinced Minnesotans to get in touch with the great outdoors again. Commissioner Landwehr did all this despite the government shutdown last summer and a 15 percent cut in funds from the state.
Politics in Minnesota (subscription required) highlighted the work of Commissioner Landwehr this week. Bud Stone, president of the Grand Rapids Chamber of Commerce, emphasizes Commissioner Landwehr’s work ethic and effectiveness. He worked with Landwehr as a member of the Forest Legacy Advisory Group, and said, “Tom was a great asset because he’s very knowledgeable.”
Op/Ed by Governor Mark Dayton
Published in Outdoor News on Friday, March 2, 2012 at 2:42 p.m.
By now, readers of Outdoor News know about the imminent threat that Asian carp (including silver, bighead and black carp) pose to the precious waters of our wonderful state. Silently and steadily, they are migrating up the Mississippi River. If established here, they would forever change the ecology and human uses of many of our water resources.
Thus it is critical that we act as quickly as possible, in whatever ways feasible, to stop the spread of Asian carp. We must also continue to work on other aquatic invasive species like zebra mussels and Eurasion watermilfoil. DNR Commissioner Tom Landwehr and his staff have been working in overdrive to identify control options, assemble funding, and get authority to put protections in place.
Tim Schlagenhaft is the DNR’s point person on its Asian carp response effort (as suggested by Dennis Anderson in Feb. 12 Star Tribune, for his outstanding expertise). Tim has spent most of his career at DNR working on issues related to the Mississippi River, and has worked in close cooperation with many agencies and organizations to develop the state’s Asian carp action plan (see link at bottom). This plan outlines several steps we must take, both now and longer-term, to defeat this serious threat.
The Minnesota Department of Human Services (DHS) is the state’s largest agency, serving well over one million people annually. The department administers a broad range of services, including health care, economic assistance, mental health and substance abuse prevention and treatment. At the helm of the department, Commissioner Lucinda Jesson has engaged in some of the State’s toughest battles over the past year, including keeping services rolling throughout the State Government Shutdown.
This week Politics in Minnesota (subscription required) profiled the work of Commissioner Jesson. The article commends Commissioner Jesson for her perseverance and positive demeanor when dealing with last year’s budget fights.
“She has got one of the toughest commissioner jobs that is out there,” [Minnesota Hospital Association president] Massa says. “She has been very open to working with stakeholders. She is a good communicator. If she thinks something is going to be controversial, she will give us a call or have someone on her staff give us a call.”