I hope you and your loved ones are enjoying these beautiful summer months and taking advantage of all our community has to offer. After all, Northfield was recently named the second best small town in the country!
Recognition of our great schools, high community involvement, cultural amenities, historical architecture, abundant parks and outdoor activities is well deserved. It shows what we can achieve when we unite as members of a larger community to support one another and advance the common good.
Northfield is well-positioned for a bright future, especially when you consider the steps the state legislature took to build an economy that works for everyone – what I often refer to as a ‘middle-class economy’ in which we all have an opportunity to develop our full potential.
Beginning this fall, every child can attend all-day Kindergarten free of charge, which means an even better education for our children as well as significant savings for moms and dads. In addition, eligible students earning a post-secondary degree at Carleton College and St. Olaf are benefiting from the largest increase in state financial aid in over a decade.
Property tax rates for Northfield homeowners and renters declined this year due in large part to the legislature’s investments in Local Government Aid, which helps pay for services our community depends on every day, like roads, police officers and firefighters. When you factor in new investments in direct refunds, renters and homeowners will see their property taxes decline even further without sacrificing our high quality of life. The deadline to apply for a property tax refund is Friday, August 15. To see eligibility requirements, visit the Department of Revenue’s website or call the Minnesota Department of Revenue at 651-296-3781 or 1-800-652-9094.
Because of my long-time advocacy for building a thriving middle class, I am especially proud of supporting Minnesota’s first minimum wage increase in nearly a decade. The increase is implemented in steps over the next several years, the first of which takes effect on Friday, August 1. Boosting wages for Northfield’s low-income workers (many working multiple jobs to make ends meet) means families will have more income to spend at local businesses on necessities like groceries, gas, clothing and school supplies. Local nursing home employees and long-term care providers are benefiting from state funding increases as well.
Dane Smith, President of the nonpartisan research and advocacy organization ‘Growth & Justice,’ recently highlighted my work to restore the middle class in an article that appeared in the public affairs newspaper Capitol Report “Bly and a growing number of other legislators think states need to fashion a more coherent agenda and a more comprehensive set of policies that provide living wages and benefits for all workers, much expanded educational and training opportunities from birth to career readiness, affordable health care, quality housing, low cost transportation and investments in cleaner and greener economy,” said Smith.
Just like Northfield, Minnesota’s overall economy is getting stronger. During May and June, employers added nearly 20,000 jobs statewide, bringing our unemployment rate down to the lowest level since February 2007.
Minnesota’s budget outlook remains strong – a refreshing contrast to the perpetual cycle of deficits that hurt our economy before the 2013-2014 legislative session began. General fund revenue for Fiscal Year 2014 (which ended on July 1) came in at $168 million more than projected. We also now have $150 million more revenue in our budget reserves, which will help provide a better financial cushion in future economic downturns and protect vital needs like education, health care and infrastructure.
Lastly, our state received some exciting national recognition over the past several months. CNBC ranked Minnesota the sixth best state for business in the entire country (up from #13 last year), citing our “superior quality of life, a vibrant economy and a robust infrastructure.” In addition, Forbes recently ranked Minnesota he third best state to make a living (up from #6) due to our “very low unemployment rate and excellent workplace conditions.” A diverse economy and well-educated workforce are big reasons why our median household income and our quality of life is consistently above the national average.
Our city and our state are great places to live, work, raise a family and do business. By continuing to work together for the common good, we are well-positioned for an even brighter future.