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Legislative News and Views - Rep. Jean Wagenius (DFL)

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Legislative Update - May 10, 2019

Friday, May 10, 2019

Dear neighbors,

My colleagues and I have made significant progress recently. Last week, the House finished approving our entire budget. Now that the House and Senate have passed their budgets, members from each body will meet in conference committees to settle their differences.

Second Saturday Reminder

Please join me tomorrow, May 11 at Mayflower Church for my monthly meeting with community members. All are welcome at this free event.

When: Saturday, May 11 from 9:30 – 11:30 a.m.
Where: Mayflower Church, 100 E. Diamond Lake Road, Minneapolis, MN 55419

Contact Zach at zach.zimmerman@house.mn with questions.

Jobs & Energy

I’m honored to be one of the House members serving on the conference committee for the jobs and energy budget. The jobs and energy budget we passed in the House would help Minnesota build a thriving clean energy economy. Transitioning to 100 percent carbon-free energy is a top priority. Our bill provides grants for installing solar energy systems on school buildings, helps our higher education institutions rapidly expand their use of clean energy, supports cleaner cars and buildings, and improves community solar gardens.

The jobs portion of the budget includes paid family and medical leave and earned sick and safe time, policies that give workers time to take care of themselves and their families. It also strengthens protections against wage theft.

The Senate budget fails to address climate change and its consequences. Instead of taking the opportunity to grow a clean energy economy and re-establish our state as a national leader, Senate Republicans chose to keep Minnesota dependent on fossil fuels. Their plan also doesn’t include paid family leave or earned sick and safe time. While the differences in our priorities are vast, I’m hopeful that we can come together to secure a prosperous future for current Minnesotans and generations to come.

E-12 Education

Our E-12 education budget increases per-pupil funding by three percent in 2020 and two percent in 2021. Funding for Minneapolis schools would increase by approximately $668 per student over two years. Richfield schools would see an increase of about $689 per student.

Increased funding would help schools across the state support students inside and outside the classroom. It would also improve student health and safety, prevent teacher layoffs and larger class sizes, support special education programs, and expand opportunities for students to earn college credit and develop skills through career and technical programs. A fact sheet with more information is available here.

The Senate Republican budget doesn’t do nearly enough to invest in our students. Here’s a comparison of how school districts in our area would fare under each:

School District

House Budget – 2020

Senate Budget – 2020

House Budget – 2021

Senate Budget – 2021

Minneapolis

$12,722,093

$2,805,328

$21,531,132

$4,266,660

Richfield

$1,711,499

$348,297

$2,930,007

$540,732

 

Health & Human Services

Too many Minnesotans don’t have access to affordable, high-quality health care. Our health and human services budget would reduce the cost of prescription drugs, protect elders in assisted living facilities and nursing homes, and improve access to reproductive health care for women. It allows Minnesotans to buy into a plan similar to MinnesotaCare, putting our state on the path to a public option. It also protects more than 1.2 million Minnesotans who receive care through the Health Care Access Fund from Senate Republicans who would allow them to lose their coverage.

If you’d like to learn more, a fact sheet with details is available here. You can also listen to an episode of the Minnesota Values Podcast on the topic here.

Taxes

Our tax plan would cut taxes for more than two-thirds of Minnesotans and simplifies the filing process for everyone. It puts working families, senior citizens, and small businesses first instead of favoring big corporations. Closing corporate loopholes that allow large businesses to store their profits in places like the Cayman Islands would bring $1.2 billion back to Minnesota where it belongs. Three-fourths of that revenue would be invested in Minnesota schools, and the remaining one-fourth would enable a two-year tuition freeze. A breakdown of the numbers is available here

Transportation

Minnesota didn’t fare well on the most recent infrastructure report card from the American Society of Civil Engineers. Minnesota roads received a D+ grade, bridges a C, and transit a C-. It’s clear that we need to fix our state’s transportation system so people can travel safely and quickly to wherever they need to go. Our transportation budget would generate the funds we need to make those improvements by raising the gas tax over a four-year period.

The budget substantially increases aid that local governments need to maintain their infrastructure. The City of Minneapolis would see about a $10,303,479 increase in transportation funding over four years, and the City of Richfield would receive $985,994 more. Aid for Hennepin County would increase by $26,946,623. This funding would make a difference for local roads, bridges, and transit in our community and across the state. Another fact sheet is available here.

Higher Education

The cost of higher education is a barrier for too many Minnesotans. That’s why our budget freezes tuition at all two- and four-year public colleges and universities. As a result, tens of thousands of Minnesota students wouldn’t pay a penny more in tuition for the next two years. It also invests in the state grant program, which provides financial support for working families. 80,000 students who are currently enrolled in the program would see their grants increase by $400 on average, and 6,000 Minnesotans would become eligible for the first time. A fact sheet for the higher education budget is available here.

Moving Forward

The latest episode of the Minnesota Values Podcast, which is available here, has more information on the status of budget negotiations. If you’d like to follow the conference committees, a meeting schedule and additional information is available here. Session Daily, a nonpartisan outlet that provides daily updates from the legislature, is also a great resource; you can read those articles here.

With just two weeks remaining in the legislative session, your input is more important than ever! Our state budget should represent your values, so please share your opinions with me, your state senator, and other legislators. I look forward to hearing from you soon.

Sincerely,

Jean Wagenius
State Representative