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Minnesota Government Update


February 20, 2009


Minnesota to Gain $9.1 Billion from Stimulus Package
The Federal Stimulus Package, signed into law this week by President Obama, could bring Minnesota an estimated $9.1 billion to rebuild schools, roads, bridges, and health programs. The $787 billion economic stimulus package promises to save or create 66,000 jobs in Minnesota, part of a net gain of an estimated 3.5 million jobs nationwide.

Much of the job creation in Minnesota is expected to come from about $502 million in spending on "shovel-ready" road and highway projects; some economists are suggesting that Minnesota could net as many as 92,000 jobs.

Some details of the federal stimulus package are listed below.

Aid to Poor and Unemployed
  • $40 billion to provide extended unemployment benefits through Dec. 31, and increase them by $25 a week
  • $20 billion to increase food stamp benefits by 14 percent
  • $4 billion for job training
  • $3 billion in temporary welfare payments
Direct Cash Payments
  • $14.2 billion to give one-time $250 payments to Social Security recipients, poor people on Supplemental Security Income, and veterans receiving disability and pensions
Infrastructure
  • $48 billion for transportation projects, including $27.5 billion for highway and bridge construction and repair
  • $8.4 billion for mass transit
  • $8 billion for construction of high-speed railways
  • $1.3 billion for Amtrak
  • $4.6 billion for the Army Corps of Engineers
  • $4 billion for public housing improvements
  • $6 billion for clean and drinking water projects
  • $7.2 billion to bring broadband Internet service to under-served areas
  • $4.2 billion to repair and modernize Defense Department facilities
Health Care
  • $24.7 billion to provide a 65 percent subsidy of health care insurance premiums for the unemployed under the COBRA program
  • $86.6 billion to help states with Medicaid
  • $19 billion to modernize health information technology systems
  • $10 billion for health research and construction of National Institutes of Health facilities
  • $1 billion for prevention and wellness programs
State Block Grants
  • $8.8 billion in aid to states to defray budget cuts
Energy
  • About $50 billion for energy programs, focused chiefly on efficiency and renewable energy, including $5 billion to weatherize modest-income homes
  • $6.4 billion to clean up nuclear weapons production sites
  • $11 billion toward a so-called "smart electricity grid" to reduce waste
  • $6 billion to subsidize loans for renewable energy projects
  • $6.3 billion in state energy efficiency and clean energy grants
  • $4.5 billion to make federal buildings more energy efficient
  • $2 billion in grants for advanced batteries for electric vehicles
Education
  • $44.5 billion in aid to local school districts to prevent layoffs and cutbacks, with flexibility to use the funds for school modernization and repair
  • $25.2 billion to school districts to fund special education and the No Child Left Behind law for students in K-12
  • $15.6 billion to boost the maximum Pell Grant by $500 to $5,350
  • $2 billion for Head Start
Housing
  • $4 billion to repair and make more energy efficient public housing projects
  • $2 billion for the redevelopment of foreclosed and abandoned homes
  • $1.5 billion for homeless shelters
  • $2 billion to pay off a looming shortfall in public housing accounts
Science
  • $3 billion for the National Science Foundation for basic science and engineering research
  • $1 billion for NASA
  • $1.6 billion for research in areas such as climate science, biofuels, high-energy physics and nuclear physics
Home-Buyer Credit
  • $6.6 billion to repeal a requirement that an $8,000 first-time home buyer tax credit be paid back over time for homes purchased from Jan. 1 to Nov. 30, unless the home is sold within three years
Auto Sales
  • $1.7 billion to make sales taxes paid on new cars, light trucks, recreational vehicles, and motorcycles tax deductible through the end of the year
Renewable Energy Incentives
  • About $20 billion in tax incentives for renewable energy and energy efficiency over 10 years, including extending tax credits for energy produced from wind, geothermal, hydropower, and landfill gas; grants to build renewable energy facilities; tax credits for purchases of energy-efficient furnaces, windows and doors, or insulation; tax credit for families that purchase plug-in hybrid vehicles
Green Jobs Task Force Unveils Plan to Legislature
The Green Jobs Task Force, co-chaired by Senator Ellen Anderson and Representative Jeremy Kalin, was established by the State Legislature in 2008 to advise the Governor and Legislature regarding activities to advance the state's economy.

The Task Force created three subcommittees. The first subcommittee focused on workforce education and training for green jobs, targeting both an urban and rural setting. The subcommittee examined issues of green job goals, training and access throughout Minnesota. The second subcommittee focused on green jobs, hearing from businesses who have been asked to share what programs/initiatives/incentives in Minnesota are helpful in establishing businesses and identified significant barriers to promoting new green businesses. The third targeted the retention and the expansion of green jobs in Minnesota. This last subcommittee focused on retaining jobs in wind, ethanol, biodiesel, mining, forestry, and the window manufacturing industry sectors by examining the challenges these industries face as well as the steps individual businesses have taken to remain competitive with a focus on conservation, energy efficiency, sustainable practices, and use of renewable energy.

The proposals and recommendations by the Task Force were presented in both House and Senate committees this week. Senator Anderson says at least 20,000 new jobs would be created and 50,000 jobs would be retained by 2020 if the proposals are adopted. Some of the programs could be funded by some of the federal stimulus package money slated for Minnesota.

Pogemiller Announces Voluntary Pay Cuts
Larry Pogemiller (DFL-Minneapolis), Senate Majority Leader, in response to a bill proposing a salary reduction for state legislators, said that any senator will be allowed to cut his or her salary as lawmakers try to solve the state's budget crisis. However, he also said there is now a hiring and wage freeze for all Senate employees.

Pogemiller said the actions show the public that lawmakers are taking the budget deficit seriously and are sharing in the pain.

Senator Geoff Michel (R-Edina) and a group of Republican legislators proposed cutting all legislator and constitutional officer salaries by 5 percent.

Assistant Minority Leader, Senator David Hann (R-Eden Prairie), said he believes the hiring freeze was politically motivated, leaving Senate Republicans unable to hire a new Chief of Staff for the caucus. Assistant Majority Leader, Senator Tarryl Clark (DFL-St. Cloud), said the position is not being singled out and that many Senate staff positions have been eliminated in the past couple years. 
 
 
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