Dear Friends and Neighbors,
It looks like we’re in for yet another snowfall this weekend, so please be safe and take precautions if you are traveling. Today wraps up a busy week at the Capitol and, in this week’s update, I’ll fill you in on the “Learn and Earn” program and the governor’s budget proposal.
Learn and Earn Program
On Tuesday, Governor Walz unveiled his state budget proposal for the next two years (more on that below). One of the important programs the governor’s budget would provide increased funding for is the youth skills training grant program I helped create in the legislature two years ago. Youth skills training programs create paid-learning opportunities in high-demand fields for students through partnerships between schools and private industry.
Yesterday I welcomed Department of Labor Commissioner Nancy Leppink to Goodhue County to discuss our area’s “Learn and Earn” program with manufacturers, educators, and students. Last year I worked extensively with a collaborative from Goodhue County and area schools as they applied and were awarded a youth skills training grant. They created the "Learn and Earn" program with area manufacturers that high school students are now participating in to gain work experience and exposure to manufacturing.
It was great to have everybody involved in this initiative in one place to discuss the program yesterday. It’s very rewarding to see this program helping students in our area gain the training and skills necessary to better prepare themselves for good-paying careers down the road. Workforce development is a bipartisan issue and I look forward to continuing to work with Governor Walz and Commissioner Leppink on this important matter.
Governor’s Budget Proposal
Although I am very pleased the governor is prioritizing workforce development, I remain deeply concerned by the massive tax hikes that are a major component of the governor’s budget. These tax increases total more than $3 billion over the next two years, would make life more expensive for families and businesses, and take more money out of the pockets of every Minnesotan.
You’ve probably heard about the 20 cent per gallon gas tax increase the governor is proposing, which would make Minnesota the state with the 4th highest gas tax in the country. Our community already faces a high tax burden, and this proposal would make every trip to the gas station more expensive. This would especially hurt drivers in our area who have longer drives to make as well as area businesses moving their products by trucks. A gas tax hike would also disproportionately hurt our area’s farmers who are already suffering from low crop prices. Following the 20 cent per gallon proposal, I heard from a farmer in our area who operates a small hog farm with one truck. He estimates that upping the gas tax would cost him an extra $4,000 per year for just one truck! Similar costs can be expected at every farm in our area, many that have more equipment requiring more fuel. Our farmers simply can’t afford this extra financial burden.
The governor’s proposal would also increase license tab fees, raise taxes on healthcare, and increase property taxes for small businesses around the state. At a time when our state enjoys a healthy budget surplus, there is no reason to consider raising taxes by so much. Needless to say, we can’t afford the higher taxes the governor is proposing.
In addition, I was disappointed to see the governor left out the state’s reinsurance program, which has stabilized health insurance premiums by reducing the impact of high-risk individuals on the individual market. This program has proven successful as it has helped lower health insurance costs on the individual market each of the last two years. Funding for this program is already in place but needs to be renewed. If this program is not extended, the effect on rates could be devastating, especially in our area. Although there is more work to be done, I believe this program is crucial in our efforts to lowering healthcare costs.
It was great sitting down with Brad Hovel and Paul Freeman of the Minnesota Soybean Growers Association.
Cassandra Bender and Renae Homes of Hiawatha Homes and Buff Hennessy of The ARC SE stopped by to discuss care provider wages.
Michelle Walker, Rachel Bosshart, Brooklyn Stewart, and Ashley Chapman – students from MN State College in Red Wing – came by with LeadMN to discuss student food insecurity
With a group from our area during Catholics at the Capitol Day.
Staying in Touch
If you ever have any questions or concerns regarding any issue related to state government, please feel free to contact me any time. I can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 651-296-8635.
Have a great weekend,