For more information contact: DJ Danielson 651-296-8879
Well, the door has shut on 2017 but swings wide open for 2018! I want to wish you all the best in the new year. I’ll be heading back to school when it resumes, working hard to get everything in order for my time away from my students during the 2018 legislative session that begins on February 20th. 2018 will be a “bonding” year which means that the legislature will be focusing on renovation or construction needs for public colleges and university campuses, safety upgrades to hospitals or prisons, sewer or other water infrastructure fixes, road and bridge repairs, transit, parks, trails, airports or public buildings like civic centers.
This has been an incredible year for me as your State Representative at the Capitol; I have learned so much about our great state of Minnesota and our communities of St. Anthony, New Brighton, Hilltop and Columbia Heights. In the next couple of weeks I will be meeting with each of these community’s leaders to discuss bonding needs and to hear how I can be a stronger advocate for our communities. Please continue to share your stories, your concerns, and celebrations with me as we enter our next legislative session.
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.
As of January 1st, Minnesota's minimum wage increased 12-15 cents to $9.65/hr for large employers and $7.87/hr for small employers due to the hard work of the Legislature just a few years ago. While it’s encouraging to see some cities and businesses voluntarily raise their hourly wage to $15 per hour, I think we can all agree that this minimum wage increase does not solve the need for a living wage for families.
It was hard to hear the recent media reports highlighting assaults, abuse, neglect and other crimes in Minnesota’s senior care facilities, the lack of adequate response from state investigators to complaints, and how in many cases, nothing was done to address the concerns.
Governor Dayton has launched an Elder Abuse Consumer Work Group, led by AARP Minnesota, focusing on safety issues of seniors in care facilities. This workgroup is a valuable opportunity for Minnesotans to voice their experiences and concerns. Those interested in sharing any experiences or providing input are encouraged to do so via email at firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject “Elder Abuse Workgroup” by January 10. Recommendations will then be presented to the Legislature for consideration in the 2018 session. My mother spent the last five years of her life in a local care facility and it breaks my heart that there are vulnerable seniors who do not have an advocate. Join me in looking out for our vulnerable senior community members!
Another challenge facing Minnesota came in the form of the latest economic forecast, projecting a $188 million budget deficit. This amount is projected to grow to $586 million in just a couple of years. The shortfall is largely due to unnecessary tax cuts for corporations and the wealthy enacted this past session, as well as uncertainty at the federal government regarding taxes and health care. I’m concerned that if the state budget isn’t stabilized, solving problems like lack of eldercare oversight and stopping the opioid crisis will be much more difficult. Also, our ability to maintain needed investments in what we all value, like quality schools and affordable health care, could be put in jeopardy if we don’t rethink these tax breaks for corporations like big tobacco.
USA Today has named Minnesota the “Best Run State in the Nation.” Since being placed 10th in 2012, we’ve consistently risen in this ranking, and we should be proud of earning the top honor this year. The study highlighted Minnesota’s “strong fiscal management, low unemployment and poverty rates, above-average median household income, and strong credit rating.” Accolades like this further illustrate the need to remain fiscally stable while investing in what's good for Minnesotans.
As the New Year, 2018, offers us new hopes and resolves, here’s wishing you and your family a wonderful year ahead. Happy New Year.
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