This past year, Minnesota became an even bolder outlier to national trends. We elected a progressive Governor and U.S. Senator at a time when the majority of the country supported conservative candidates. Minnesota also supported progressive legislation that is improving the lives of thousands of working Minnesota families. Here’s a list of the top five progressive moments in Minnesota of 2014.
1. Minimum Wage Increase
In the spring of 2014, lawmakers passed a minimum wage increase for Minnesota’s working families for the first time in years. The minimum wage is now on a steady track to increase to $9.50 in 2016, and is scheduled to increase with inflation after that.
2. All-Day K Implemented
Minnesota implemented free all-day kindergarten for every student in the state at the start of the 2014 school year. This impacts nearly 55,000 students in Minnesota, some of which recently paid up to $4,000 a year to send their youngsters to all day kindergarten. This is an extremely important investment in Minnesota’s future by creating a strong, and educated workforce for Minnesota.
3. Women’s Economic Security Act
Progressive legislators also passed the Women’s Economic Security Act, a bundle of bills that help women succeed in the workplace. It includes banning punishment of workers for discussing their pay, requires employers to offer proper space for working nursing mothers, and increases the amount of time women can take unpaid maternity leave. The package of bills is considered the first of its kind in the nation, and paves the way for a better economy with the best workforce possible.
4. Re-electing progressive leaders
Minnesota once again reelected all progressive leaders to statewide office, including Governor Mark Dayton, Senator Al Franken and Secretary of State Steve Simon. This is particularly telling in 2014 when conservatives swept their way into offices across the country, but Minnesota remains an island of blue surrounded by red states.
5. More Insurance Coverage than Ever Before
Numbers recently released show that more Minnesotans have health insurance than ever before. Only 6.7 percent of Minnesotans now do not have health insurance coverage, down from 10.7 percent in 2013. MnSure is credited with much of this decline, which followed the implementation of the Affordable Care Act in Minnesota. Our progressive leaders decided to create a statewide exchange ahead of the federal one. More Minnesotans with good healthcare is crucial for families to receive proper care and for continuing to build a strong middle class.