The pace picks up as we approach the March 8 start of the 2016 legislative session. My focus is on gathering as much input as possible in preparation for this relatively short legislative session.
Monday and Tuesday were St. Paul days as my colleagues and I worked on prioritizing the larger issues for the upcoming session. We have three-big picture items. Two of which – tax reform and long-term transportation funding – are left over from 2015. I’m a firm believer in finishing what you start before you jump into new projects.
The even-numbered legislative years also are bonding years. The Legislature will develop a bonding package that focuses on capital investments of regional significance.
In the past two weeks Sen. Ruud and I have visited Cross Lake, Emily, Crosby, Aitkin, Deerwood, Hill City, Palisade and McGregor for informal public listening sessions. I also have co-hosted several listening sessions with key House committee chairs, including sessions on outdoor recreational issues, health insurance issues, education and child care matters, with more listening sessions to follow over the next couple of weeks.
Recently in the House we created the Select Committee on Child Care. A first look at the data indicates that in Aitkin and Crow Wing counties alone we have lost almost 30 percent of our child care providers over the past 10 years. In 2014, Minnesota’s child care centers, as a group, were ranked as the least affordable for infant care and the fifth-least affordable for 4-year-olds within the region.
Our child care providers are doing a wonderful job providing a critical service to our community, but it’s also clear Minnesota has some serious issues in regard to maintaining a healthy supportive climate for those who do this very challenging work.
We want to make sure we approach any adjustments in a well thought out manner and not repeat the mistakes made with untested wholesale changes to our health care insurance system. We need to get it right the first time with respect to Minnesota’s child care system.