On Friday, state budget officials announced the February Economic Forecast, which now shows a positive projected balance of $1.6 billion. This is a turnaround from the last forecast in November – which projected a deficit – and is largely due to assistance from the federal government and an improving economic outlook. Still, we know how difficult this pandemic has been on families and small business owners, with our lowest wage workers – who were having a rough go of it before COVID-19 – being impacted disproportionately.
We need to pull together to invest in great schools, quality, affordable health care, and economic security for those who this crisis has hit the hardest. Putting a two-year budget together is going to take compromise, and Minnesotans deserve nothing less than lawmakers and the Governor working together to strengthen the future for everyone in our state.
In case you missed it, last week the Mesabi Tribune released a new issue of its MINE edition. I’d encourage you to grab a copy. The issue has a few good stories about the future of the industry, including one on the future of HibTac and profiles of workers. It also features a column I offered about how too often in politics, interest groups are able to drive wedges within our communities to push a tightly wound narrative, not only making it more difficult to get things done to help people, but harming our social fabric itself. Check it out.
As the COVID-19 situation improves, I keep pushing for more of our small businesses to resume operations with as few restrictions as possible while still keeping folks safe. The House Subcommittee on Legislative Process Reform, of which I am a member, continues to work on proposals to allow more businesses to open up and activities to resume, while also looking at our overall laws regarding emergency management.
While we’re all passionate in our own ways about helping our main street businesses rebound and have different ideas about how to best approach this work, we share many of the same goals to help our main street businesses rebound. Friday, I offered a proposal – an idea brought to me by the owners of the Sawmill in Virginia – to reimburse business owners for food and beverages that spoiled during business closures during the pandemic. As soon this week our committee will be advancing solutions through the committee process.
Last week, the governor gave an updated timeline for when various groups of Minnesotans will be eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine. I know this process has been frustrating, but so long as demand exceeds the available supply, we will need to be strategic in distributing shots. Governor Walz is aiming to have 70 percent of Minnesotans age 65 or older receive the vaccine before the end of March, with educators continuing to receive the vaccine, too. Next up will be those with specific health conditions and certain essential workers, like those in food processing plants.
I’d encourage you to visit the new Vaccine Connector and sign up to receive a notification when you’re eligible, as well as information to connect you to a provider when it’s your turn to receive a shot. With case numbers dropping – as are hospitalizations and deaths – and another version of the vaccine from Johnson & Johnson here, I’m incredibly optimistic we’re coming to the end of this chapter.
While we’re meeting remotely due to COVID-19 precautions, technology enables us to work with a full committee schedule. House Public Information Services has plenty of nonpartisan resources, including streaming video of floor sessions and committee hearings. They also produce Session Daily with recaps of high-profile bills and other news. I also invite you to follow me on Facebook.
Please contact me if I can be of assistance. It’s an honor to represent you.