By Rep. Lisa Demuth
The 2020 legislative session begins Feb. 11 in St. Paul and many serious challenges await, from high health care costs to shortages of child care and housing, state agency dysfunction and beyond.
This is not a budget year in name, but fiscal decisions certainly will be in the mix with a $1.3 billion surplus projected for our state. While there will be an endless array of proposals for how to allocate the surplus funds, it should go back to the taxpayers one way or another instead of being used to expand government.
For example, the surplus is enough to lower health care costs by fully repealing the harmful health care tax that disappointingly was extended last year. That alone would cut health care costs on Minnesotans by nearly $1 billion, an opportunity for those who have talked a good talk on this issue to act.
In any case, the $12 billion in tax hikes pushed by the House majority last year should be off the table. The state’s own economic consultants have said that tax cuts generate growth. We should listen to them and work toward returning as much of the surplus as possible back to taxpayers.
Our shortage of child care providers also is an issue which must be addressed. I continue to say that healthy families result in healthy communities. A crucial component in that goal is to ensure quality, affordable child care is available to working families.
Reduced child care choices have compounded problems regarding our workforce shortage in Greater Minnesota and we need to do a better job of making sure our children are receiving safe care while also allowing child care providers to breathe. I am serving on a newly formed child care task force and look forward to continuing my work to seek reform.
Aside from our child care shortage, a lack of workforce housing and a need for more workforce development also are holding back Greater Minnesota in terms of growing our local economies. More should be done to make sure we are helping citizens receive the training they need to qualify for jobs that are available – and have a place to live once they are hired.
On the subject of local businesses, it already is time to revisit the wage-theft law which was enacted in 2019. I am not a supporter of this law as it is written because it burdens all of our businesses because of a few bad actors. I would support reform which only applies action when cases of wage theft is detected and subjects that particular person or entity to sanctions and/or places them on a corrective pathway.
This session we also need to shine some light on the still-unexplained resignations that kicked off the summer of dysfunction at the Minnesota Department of Human Services. Initial steps were taken to restore integrity in CCAP and our other public programs after rampant fraud was discovered, but more needs to be done. We also need processes in place to stop overpayments, contract violations and other issues that have resulted in tens of millions in financial mismanagement at DHS.
Finally, as a former ROCORI School Board member, I was pleased to recently tour eight separate schools in House District 13A. The experience provided me with a personal look at the classrooms and see student interaction live and in real time.
One common thread across our schools is the strong need for mental-health support and cross-subsidy funding. A bill I authored (H.F. 2476) is intended to increase the Special Ed. funding and I will work to get traction with it in 2020.