For more information contact: Bennett Smith 651-296-6422
It has been a great honor to represent you at the State Capitol this year, but I must say it has been extraordinarily disappointing to watch Republicans at the federal level finish the year by giving tax cuts to the wealthiest 1% and corporations, failing to fund children’s health insurance (CHIP), and leaving thousands of DACA recipients wondering whether or not their lives will be turned upside down by Congressional failure to enact meaningful immigration reform. It is simply disrespectful to the voters of this country. While we wait to understand the full impacts of the federal tax bill on Minnesota’s budget and families, I wanted to give a bit of light and share a few year-end updates from the Capitol:
New Laws and a Wage Increase on January 1st
While most laws go into effect in July and August after the legislative session, a few new laws go into effect on January 1st. You can read about the handful of new laws here. Also, because of the inflator that was part of the minimum wage increase passed by the DFL in 2014, the minimum wage will be going up with inflation on January 1st as well. Read more about that here.
Governor Dayton’s Taskforce on Affordable Housing
On December 21st, Governor Dayton announced a new task force to address affordable housing in Minnesota. Under Governor Dayton’s leadership, public and private investment totaling more than $5 billion has helped nearly 325,000 low and moderate-income households. Sadly, more than 554,000 Minnesota households still struggle to afford quality housing, a 58 percent increase since 2000.
A lot more remains to be done. The Governor’s Task Force on Housing will recommend policies and practices to help alleviate Minnesota’s housing challenge. You can read more about that here.
Text to 9-1-1
Minnesotans are now able to text 9-1-1 for help. Law enforcement still encourages people to call 911 when possible, but this new technology offers a text option. This will be incredibly important for people with hearing and speech disabilities, as well as in situations where it may be unsafe to make an audible phone call, such as in cases of domestic violence or sex trafficking. The Pioneer Press put together a nice “how-to” for texting to 9-1-1.
Minnesota is Best Run State in U.S.A.
Recently Minnesota was named the Best-Run State in the Nation. The study “highlights Minnesota’s strong fiscal management, low unemployment and poverty rates, above-average median household income, and strong credit rating.”
Since ranking 10th in 2012, Minnesota has consistently climbed in the same study under Governor Dayton’s leadership on better government reforms. According to the comparisons with other states, Minnesota’s level of government services are good and the size of our government very lean, and a majority of Minnesotans surveyed said they were satisfied with the value they receive from state government.
While I think we can all be very proud, I know we have a lot of work left to do to make sure that Minnesota is number one for everyone. I’m committed to pushing us to make our state a more fair and equitable place for all people of every race, religion and gender, and improving the things we value!
November Budget Forecast
Earlier this month we got news that the November budget forecast is projecting a deficit of $188 million ($302 million when the full budget is passed). What’s worse – the deficit is set to grow over the next few years to $586 million.
Going into the 2017 session, Minnesota had a $1.6 billion budget surplus. In less than a year, the irresponsible Republican budget plan turned that surplus into a deficit due in part to tax cuts for corporations like big tobacco and the wealthy. This is unacceptable, and I will continue to fight irresponsible tax cuts for the rich if Republicans seek to create more budget uncertainty in 2018.
What do you value?
What would make life better for you, your family and our community? My colleagues and I have been having conversations all across Minnesota asking just that question. For a change of pace, we as legislators have simply listened and facilitated a dialogue about our shared values and future. The conversations have been robust, challenging, moving, and thoughtful. People from all walks of life have attended and shared so much about themselves and their communities.
Now, it’s your turn to join so many other Minnesotans and share what you value and what you’d like to see Minnesota do. Please take this opportunity to fill out a brief, four question survey.
Reminder: Heating Assistance and Cold Weather Rule
As a reminder, the burden of heating bills can be too much to bear for some families, and no one deserves to be left in the cold. For those Minnesotans under certain income levels, help may be available for payment of energy bills, help with utility disconnections or fuel deliveries, and advocacy with power companies and human service providers. For more information please visit the Minnesota Department of Commerce’s website here.
The Minnesota Cold Weather Rule is now also in effect, which protects residential utility customers from having their heat shut off during the winter months. More information is available from the Public Utilities Commission here.
I want to wish everyone a Happy Holiday Season! So many of us have wonderful traditions with family and friends during this season, and with a brand new year approaching, I hope these days will be filled with joy for you and the ones you love.
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