The legislative session has reached a key pivot point, with this week being the mid-session break. The House and Senate have now released and passed out of committee the supplemental spending bills for each area of the state budget. Starting next week, action will shift largely to the House and Senate floors, with most committees no longer holding regular meetings. Negotiations (“conference committees”) between the two chambers will follow, before we adjourn on Monday, May 23.
I’ll discuss other supplemental spending bills in future e-updates. This version discusses the bills in my own committee and in E-12 education, as well as several other proposals to help reduce key costs for Minnesota families. But first:
Conversation on Community Safety – TONIGHT
Issues of safety and crime are on the minds of many in our community. This evening from 6:00pm to 7:30pm, I’ll join Ramsey County Attorney John Choi and my Senate District 64 colleagues – Rep. Kaohly Her and Sen. Erin Murphy – for a virtual conversation on these important topics. With apologies for the late notice in this e-update, please consider joining us if you can. You can register to obtain the link here.
A Great Start for the Youngest Minnesotans
The supplemental budget proposal from the Early Childhood Finance and Policy Committee, which I chair, came in two pieces. About a week and a half ago, we passed a bill to provide statewide, voluntary pre-K at local schools, Head Start, and licensed child care providers for more than 20,000 four-year-olds from low-income families or otherwise vulnerable backgrounds. These are the children most likely to benefit from high-quality early care and learning and least likely to have access to it.
Then last week, our committee passed the rest of its supplemental budget proposal – $850 million worth of investments in child care and early learning, a sector that is foundational to our economy both now and in the long run. These investments would provide early learning scholarships to 20,000 infants and toddlers, again from low-income and vulnerable backgrounds. We would also significantly increase reimbursement rates for child care subsidies for low-income families (the Child Care Assistance Program, or CCAP) and make more families eligible for the program, including foster parents, custodians, and guardians. Finally, our proposal contains a number of pieces to support teachers and caregivers, most notably the continuation of monthly grants that have helped many providers keep operating over the past two years. Ongoing public support is necessary to meet this ongoing public need.
Check out our final hearing on the bill here. More on our efforts this year to get young kids off to a great start are also in this press release, this fact sheet, and this terrific piece from KARE-11 news.
Supporting Minnesota Students and Schools
On Monday, I participated in a press conference announcing the House DFL proposal to invest more than $3 billion in E-12 education. In addition to my committee’s proposal for pre-K, this includes hundreds of millions of dollars per year to help school districts cover the costs of special education and English language learner programs. These are services that schools are mandated but not funded enough to provide, squeezing the rest of their budgets.
The proposal also includes funding to support students’ health and wellbeing – a huge and growing need – by hiring more counselors, social workers, psychologists, nurses, and chemical dependency specialists. (The speaker in the photo below from the press conference is Yasmin Muridi, an education support professional from the St. Paul Public Schools who spoke powerfully about the need to invest.) A fact sheet about the bill is available here.
Reducing Costs for Minnesotans
Even as our state economy strengthens, many Minnesota families have not felt the benefits. The historic budget surplus represents a key opportunity to invest to help these families with some of their biggest expenses, for the benefit of all of us. On Tuesday, we announced a series of proposals aimed at this goal. This includes help for renters and first-time homebuyers in our Housing bill. It also includes a Great Start Tax Credit, contained in the Tax bill, that would give families up to $3,000 per young child to help pay for child care. This is a crushing expense that is keeping many parents out of the workforce (contributing to worker shortages) and forcing many others to put their children in low-quality and even unsafe care, hurting all of us in the long run.
Remembering Pete Orput
About a week ago, longtime Washington County Attorney Pete Orput passed away suddenly after a brief battle with cancer. He was a passionate fighter for justice who will be missed terribly by family, friends, and vulnerable people in Minnesota. I had a chance to share a few thoughts on him and his work for this story on KSTP-TV.
Thank you for the honor of serving our community,