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State Representative JoAnn Ward

231 State Office BuildingState Office Building
100 Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd.
651-296-7807

For more information contact: Erik Anderson 651-296-5318

Posted: 2017-07-14
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Legislative Update

Legislative Update - July 14, 2017


Dear neighbor,

 

I hope you were able to spend valuable time with friends and family over the 4th of July. Celebrating this patriotic holiday, and connecting with family and friends offer the opportunity for creating meaningful memories that keep us grounded in our commitment to freedom and justice.

 

The 2017 regular and first special sessions are now over. With this year’s initial legislative activity concluded, I want to take a moment to share some impressions of what occurred and what that means to our communities.

 

As to the Legislature’s specific work this year, overall, I think it can most accurately be summarized in one word—disappointing. At best, it could be characterized as “missed opportunities, misplaced priorities and modest accomplishments.”  

 

Given the state’s projected $1.65 billion surplus, I was hopeful at the start of the year that this would be an extremely productive session—one that would make the needed investments for our state’s economy to be strong and to reflect Minnesota values. Making those investments would be consistent with our shared value of building a better future for everyone. That did not happen. Instead, an agenda was enacted that put the interests of corporations, the wealthy, and the well-connected first, while the vast majority of Minnesotans were left behind.        

 

To be sure, there were some legislative accomplishments, like an increase in the per pupil school funding formula of 2% each of the next two years (this hardly keeps up with inflation, but we are grateful that we can do that much); an expansion of the Working Family Credit; improvements to the Child and Dependent Care Credit; passage of a REAL ID compliance bill. Here are more highlights from this legislative session:

 

  • Despite Republican plans to cut education, DFLers succeeded in securing a 2 percent increase in E-12 funding, preventing teacher layoffs and cuts to classrooms.
  • Prevented Republican cuts to the popular and impactful voluntary pre-K program.
  • Defeated expansion of private school vouchers, which would have shifted resources away from our public schools.
  • Passed a robust bonding bill to invest in infrastructure projects around the state.
  • Passed Real ID, ensuring Minnesotans will be able to board airplanes and enter federal and military facilities in 2018.
  • Repealed the outdated ban on Sunday liquor sales. Liquor sales on Sunday started on July 2.

 

As we celebrate the limited accomplishments, it should be noted that far more was left on the wayside. Nowhere were those missed opportunities more evident than in the Legislature’s failure to enact a comprehensive, multimodal transportation plan with ongoing, dedicated funding to bolster Minnesota’s transportation system. The Legislature neglected this key function of government. Instead, the Legislature raided the state’s checkbook to pay for a limited slate of transportation initiatives – thereby putting our schools, nursing homes, and other vital public services in direct competition with our transportation system for scarce financial resources. Here are some of the policies that I opposed:

 

  • Expensive tax cuts for corporations, the wealthy, and big tobacco that will send our budget into deficit.  The worst impact is in the “tails” or future consequences.
  • Underfunding higher education, despite a surplus, which will force tuition increases, staff and faculty reductions, and program cuts.
  • Failed to pass a comprehensive transportation plan to benefit the whole state.
  • Cut funding for renewable energy and rolled back environmental protections.
  • Minnesota’s cyber security was put in jeopardy with serious consequences that will not be easy to fix, and will be extremely expensive; private browsing data can also be sold to the highest bidder despite broad bipartisan support to avoid this.

 

Minnesota’s budget is balanced in the short-term, and unlike past years a government shutdown was avoided. That is certainly good news, but from a broader policy perspective, the Legislature should have done much better. We will all feel the negative impact of the actions and inactions of this legislative session for years to come. 

 

Thank you for allowing me the opportunity to share my thoughts about the work of the Legislature this year. It is truly an honor and a privilege to serve and represent your values in the Minnesota House of Representatives.   

 

Sincerely, 

 

JoAnn

Minnesota House of Representatives  ·   100 Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd. Saint Paul, MN   55155   ·   Webmaster@house.mn