I hope everyone had a Merry Christmas with quality time spent with family and friends with cookies, caroling, and holiday cheer all around. I also want to wish everyone a Happy New Year.
It’s not an easy time of year for everyone though. There are many organizations working to help folks out and are worthy of our financial assistance. If you’re able, please consider making a contribution to organizations that give people a hand up.
With the weather getting colder, some families have difficulties with heating bills this time of year. No one deserves to be out in the cold, and if you or someone you know is having a hard time, help is available. The Commerce Department’s Energy Assistance Program offers services such as direct assistance with energy bills, help with utility disconnections or fuel deliveries, and advocacy with energy suppliers and human service providers. More information is available here. The state’s Cold Weather Rule is also in effect, and protections are available to prevent heat from being shut off.
Looking Ahead to 2020
The 2020 Legislative Session will start on February 11. I’m looking forward to returning to Saint Paul to continue our work to create new opportunities for Minnesotans to succeed and to strengthen our quality of life.
Last month, we received a new economic forecast. While Minnesota is in a strong financial position, with a positive budget balance and a healthy rainy day fund, the forecast highlights significant challenges we may face in the future. There are continued global uncertainties and a projected slowdown of our state’s economic growth. If we don’t budget responsibly, our ability to fund the things we all value – like schools and health care for Minnesotans – could be at risk in the case of a slowdown.
This session we also have the opportunity to pass a robust capital investment bill with investments in key public infrastructure. Local leaders and state agencies are requesting $5.3 billion worth of improvements, repairs, and construction for higher education institutions, roads and bridges, wastewater treatment systems, parks and trails, economic development opportunities and more. Many of these are right here on the Range, including Chisholm’s public safety facility, the Chisolm ice arena and curling club, wastewater improvements at Minnesota Correctional Facility – Togo, Floodwood’s wastewater treatment plant (which failed in 2018, resulting in a discharge of wastewater into the community), a new Hibbing Mine View, and others. With interest rates remaining low and needs in our communities clearly demonstrated, I’m hopeful we can come together to enact a strong package of investments in our public assets.
Additionally, in our short session, I’ll be working to expand economic opportunities in our region, including progress on mining. There are proven companies with solid track records that are invested in our communities, and they deserve the chance to create new jobs here on the Range. There are other economic diversification efforts we can make, through tools like telecommuting and increased broadband investments to provide pathways to job creation.
Both here on the Iron Range and across the state, we have some significant gaps in mental health coverage. By expanding school-linked mental health services, we can reach more students where they spend the majority of their day and get them the support they need. Our region also lacks adequate residential mental health services and I’ll work to invest in more of these to ensure people experiencing a crisis are able to access support on a long-term basis.
In the New Year, I hope you’ll continue to contact me with your input and ideas. It’s an honor to represent you at the State Capitol.