Jason George, business manager of the International Union of Operating Engineers Local 49, today released the following statement regarding the end of Minnesota’s 2023 legislative session (download a list of key legislative outcomes here):
There is much to celebrate now that the 2023 Minnesota Legislative session has adjourned. Our priorities at the union were the same as always: job creation and investment in the infrastructure our members build. This session saw massive investments that will lead to improvements in every community in the state. When we build Minnesota, everyone wins, and our members look forward to getting to work.
In particular, I want to highlight the bonding bill. Toward the end of session, we challenged our friends on both sides of the aisle to come together to find a deal. I’m proud of the leaders of both parties, and the Governor, for doing just that. With bipartisan support, they passed the largest bonding bill in Minnesota history and ensured the needs of every corner of this state were met. I applaud Speaker Hortman, Majority Leader Dziedzic, Minority Leaders Demuth and Johnson, and Governor Walz for putting politics aside to pass this bill when tensions were high.
There were many other gains for Minnesota jobs. The transportation bill provided needed funding to MnDOT. The passage of matching funds to maximize the federal infrastructure bill ensured we will capture every federal dollar possible for investment here. We were especially pleased to see the full dedication of auto parts sales tax to transportation funding. For many years we led the fight for this commonsense solution to long-term transportation funding. We were also pleased to see a billion dollars of surplus money added to the MnDOT budget. This smart use of one-time money will help finance important projects. Increased fees and taxes on gasoline, license tabs and delivery services were more controversial but will help with future funding of transportation infrastructure. Other investments in housing and energy will help Minnesota build our economy and put 49ers to work.
We moved forward a number of important initiatives with bipartisan support, including tripling the funding for our Pathway program that allows any public high school student to take Operating Engineers classes for elective credit, stopping bad environmental policy from killing jobs, doubling the amount our public sector members can invest in our private pension, and protecting $4 billion of investment by Mayo Clinic.
Bipartisan legislation also expanded prevailing wage requirements to cover energy and other projects. Prevailing wages protect taxpayers and reputable contractors — union and non-union — from fly-by-night companies that win public contracts through ridiculously low bids made possible by shoddy workmanship, worker exploitation and unsafe working conditions. Prevailing wages help ensure that taxpayer-financed projects are high quality, built by contractors committed to the highest standards of safety, productivity and craftsmanship.
I’d be lying if I said there weren’t some things to be concerned about. Many provisions passed that trouble the job creators in this state. We will have to see how these new laws play out. We hope adjustments are made and business moves forward. Business investment is critical to Minnesota. Without jobs, we cannot prosper. We will continue to work with our friends on both sides of the aisle to ensure these new laws are implemented in a way that ensures job creation is not harmed. I’m hopeful the state can find the right balance.
Lastly, I want to acknowledge that social issues items that passed this session upset many of our members. Local 49 does not work on these issues. We purposely focus on job creation and protection of our union rights, because those are the issues that unite us as 49ers. We will continue to take that approach. We will also continue to take a non-partisan approach to politics. We will not burn bridges just because one party or the other is in charge. The pendulum always swings, and it’s critical that our union has a seat at the table no matter which political party controls government.
This session was a major step forward for infrastructure investment and job creation in Minnesota. We thank Governor Walz and the DFL leadership for making this a priority. We also thank our friends in the minority for compromising on a good bonding bill and adding their voices to support for other critical Local 49 priorities.
There is more work to do. Minnesota needs to keep investing. When our members are building projects, this state is moving forward, and everyone benefits.
IUOE Local 49