Apologies for the long gap since my last legislative update. This has been an especially busy session. Please don’t hesitate to contact me directly about specific issues that are on your mind. In the meantime, there’s a lot of content below to catch up on.
Supplemental Budget Forecast and Budget Targets
One week ago today, Minnesota Management and Budget released an economic forecast showing a projected positive balance of $1.6 billion for the upcoming biennium – a big swing from the projected deficit that had previously been projected. This good news gives us an opportunity to support working families and build a more prosperous future for all Minnesotans.
The new forecast will provide the context for the major task this session, setting the state’s two-year budget. In about two weeks, the House and Senate will release targets for each area of the state budget. (For the first time, the Early Childhood committee, which I chair, will receive its own public budget target.) Soon after, committees will release budget bills that reflect their targets. These bills will move through each chamber, and then the House and Senate will negotiate what are likely to be substantial differences. There’s a lot more to do before we adjourn in May.
Giving Minnesotans Time to Care for Themselves and Others
Minnesotans shouldn’t be forced to choose between a paycheck and taking care of a child, a loved one, or themselves. Last week, I chaired the first hearing for the proposal for Paid Family & Medical Leave, which would provide Minnesotans up to 12 weeks of time off to bond with a newborn, care for an aging parent, or seek treatment for a serious illness while receiving a percentage of their regular wages. The program would be similar to Minnesota’s Unemployment Insurance program, with premiums split between employers and employees.
I’m also supporting a bill that expands access to earned sick and safe time. Far too many Minnesotans don’t have access to this benefit and are forced to go to work when they’re sick. That creates higher risks for the worker, their colleagues, and anyone who interacts with them during the day. As COVID-19 has shown us, this can have a ripple effect on the health of an entire community. Like paid family and medical leave, earned sick and safe time is a critical benefit for working families. I’m proud to support both policies and eager to see them move forward.
Addressing the Climate Crisis
We are in the middle of a climate crisis, and Minnesotans are already seeing impacts on public health, our environment, weather, and more. To protect the planet for future generations, we need to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and invest in clean energy. As a member of the House Climate Action Caucus, I’m working with Minnesotans and my fellow legislators to develop a comprehensive plan to tackle climate change. A key component is legislation to help Minnesota transition to 100 percent clean energy by 2040, which I’m proud to co-author. The bill will create well-paying jobs, reduce pollution, and help mitigate the consequences of climate change.
Advocating for Safe and Affordable Housing
Everyone deserves a safe and affordable place to call home, but the reality is that far too many Minnesotans face housing insecurity. The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated our housing crisis. Committees on which I serve have recently heard a series of proposals intended to address this. One bill which I’d like to highlight in particular would help provide rental assistance to 550,000 low-income households – those at or below 50% of median income who pay more than 30% of their income for housing. The bill, which I’ve coauthored, would help ensure that every Minnesotan can afford a safe and stable place to live and build stronger, more inclusive communities.
COVID-19 Vaccine Update
Finally, we can all be glad that Minnesota has made meaningful progress in the fight against COVID-19. Cases, hospitalizations, and deaths are all trending downward, and the vaccination process is improving as the supply increases. Governor Walz recently announced the next steps in the distribution process.
Minnesota is on track to deliver vaccines to 70 percent of our state's seniors by the end of March. Once we hit this benchmark, people with certain underlying health conditions and those who are at a high risk for workplace exposure will become eligible. Current projections indicate that every Minnesotan should be able to get a vaccine this summer. Check out all of the latest on the state’s vaccination plan here.
If you haven’t been vaccinated yet, consider signing up at Minnesota’s COVID-19 Vaccine Connector, a new tool to help people find out when, where, and how to get a vaccine. It will let you know when you’re eligible to get a vaccine, connect you to resources to schedule an appointment, and alert you if there are vaccine opportunities nearby. If you aren’t able to sign up online or need translation assistance, you can call (833) 431-2053 to sign up over the phone.
Please continue sharing questions, ideas, and feedback. It’s an honor to serve you.
State Representative, District 64B
503 State Office Building
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