On March 8, 2016 the Minnesota Chamber of Commerce held its annual Legislative Session Priorities dinner, during which Senate Majority Leader Tom Bakk (DFL – Cook) berated the assembled State Chamber of Commerce crowd and GOP leadership. Angry with the Minnesota Chamber of Commerce’s support of the House GOP leadership (Speaker Kurt Daudt R-Crown) linking the unemployment benefits extension legislation for laid-off Iron Range workers to legislation that would reform unemployment insurance for Minnesota businesses, Bakk threatened:
“In my years in the Legislature, I have never been so disappointed in this organization,” said Bakk in a loud, emphatic voice. And his message carried a warning for the session.
“If you want to pick a fight at the Legislature and tie a big tax cut to an unemployment extension for families that don’t have any unemployment, bring it on. Because it’s not going to be a very good session for you,” he said. ~ Mesabi Daily News
Mike Cook reported in the Minnesota House Session Daily article, “Tense Start to Session with Unemployment Aid; Floor Access Debates“: HF2032/ SF209* failed on a 71-59 vote after more than two hours of debate. The bill would provide a 26-week extension of unemployment benefits for Iron Range iron ore industry workers retroactive to July 1, 2015, and also reduce a tax Minnesota businesses pay in to the unemployment insurance trust fund that provides the benefits by about $272 million. That fund has about a $1.6 billion surplus.
Alpha News recently reported that despite the large numbers of unemployed miners on the Iron Range, Democrat Mark Dayton strongly opposes opening up a new mine near Ely, Minnesota, that will create much needed jobs. On March 6, 2016, Governor Dayton sent a letter to Twin Metals Minnesota announcing his opposition to the proposed Twin Metals PolyMet Copper-Nickel mine. The Twin Metals website states they planned to spend $2.8 billion to construct the underground mine that could employ 850 full-time workers, operate for 30 years, “and will generate some 12 million labor hours during a roughly three-year construction period.” The website also sites a University of Minnesota Duluth study, stating, “the Project would generate approximately 1,700-1,900 additional indirect jobs in the region’s economy” (TMM Project Facts).
Due to the lack of Iron Range jobs, the unemployment benefits extension has become a major issue this legislative session. Subscribe to Alpha News to stay up-to-date on all this legislative session’s developments.