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Skogen: Bipartisan jobs bills will put more Minnesotans to work

In the last month, about 2,000 Minnesotans received their last unemployment check, and the unemployment rate continues to hover around 7.5 percent.

That sobering reality was the backdrop for the passage of two pieces of legislation that could put as many as 20,000 of our fellow citizens back on private payrolls.

And there was an added bonus to these two bills: Republicans and Democrats negotiated like grown-ups to come up with legislation agreeable to both sides, and both bills were signed into law by Gov. Pawlenty.

One part of the package was the passage of a capital investments bill that authorizes the sale of bonds to fund infrastructure projects around the state. Nearly all of these projects have been through the design phase and are ready to be put out for bids - meaning that construction workers can be on the job as early as this summer.

Another provision is one I've been pushing for some time - new tax credits for "angel investors" to encourage investment in start-up companies in high-technology, bioscience, and energy-efficient manufacturing. The estimated benefit from this tax credit is the creation of 6,300 jobs with an average annual wage of $49,000.

There's also a historic structure tax credit, modeled after an existing federal credit, which will provide more incentives to preserve and restore historic buildings in the state. I'm hopeful that this will help spur more private investment in the historic "Main Street" business districts that are in many rural communities in Minnesota. The provision's sponsors expect that this will create up to 1,500 new jobs in construction, drafting and architecture, some of the hardest-hit employment sectors during this recession.

Finally, this package slices the state's budget deficit by $312 million by making cuts in spending in 11 state departments. More cuts are likely to come, but the exact amount and nature of them depends on the outcome of a Supreme Court decision on a lawsuit against the governor over his use of his unallotment powers. We're also waiting for reliable fiscal estimates of the amount of federal funds flowing into the state as a result of congressional action on federal stimulus and health care reform changes.

Perhaps one of the best outcomes of the current legislative session is a reduction in partisan sniping that plagued recent years. That's not to say that there aren't people who spout the party line and refuse to compromise on anything, but their influence on the legislative process seems to be waning - at least in St. Paul. To those of us who would rather produce results than talking points, that's one good trend that needs to be extended.