Minnesota has proven that bipartisan solutions can still work in a divided government. Having completed our budget work last Saturday morning, the Minnesota Legislature has completed its work for the year. As one of the only divided state governments in the nation, the House DFL, Senate GOP, and Governor Walz were able to come together to craft consensus legislation that makes Minnesota stronger.
The nature of compromise is that not everyone gets everything they want, but I’m proud to say we were able to deliver solid investments for our schools, protect the health care of over a million Minnesotans, provide assistance to our farmers, and establish some of the strongest wage theft prevention measures in the country.
There’s still much to do. Most of our clean energy measures and provisions to combat climate change were blocked by Senate leadership, and in many policy areas Minnesota merely remained stagnant. However, I believe that our best work is ahead of us, and I’m extremely grateful for the legislation I authored that was included in the final budget for our state.
Farm to School
Our Agriculture budget is often one of the more bipartisan pieces of legislation the Legislature produces, which thankfully means many of our priorities look similar to what we’ve been working on since day one. In addition to investing in mental health in our rural farming communities, and investing in new and innovative forms of agriculture, my bill to fund the Farm to School program was also included in the Agriculture budget.
In a time where our farms are experiencing record-low commodity prices and ongoing trade wars, it’s important to explore additional markets for Minnesota’s farmers. The Farm to School program creates a mutually beneficial connection between our local farms and schools by providing our students with fresh, healthy food, and our farms with a stable stream of revenue. I want to thank the Land Stewardship Project for their steadfast advocacy on this legislation, and I look forward to seeing its benefits in our community.
Roberds Lake will finally be able to receive some sorely-needed cleanup funds thanks to the $100,000 investment in our Environment budget. Legislation authored by Sen. Jasinski and I will contribute to local fundraising efforts to clean the lake after last year’s devastating storms.
The cleanup of Roberds Lake is a small part of a larger Environment budget that prioritizes and protects Minnesota’s great outdoors. Minnesotans know that our state is a special place to live precisely because we hold our environment and natural resources in such high regards, and while more can certainly be done to combat climate change and ban toxic chemicals, this budget does a good job of investing in Minnesota’s natural beauty.
Currently, there are perfectly good medications that need to be thrown away in Long Term Care centers due to federal packaging regulations. Seventeen other states have very successful programs that send those unused medications to a central repository where people who don't have drug coverage or are uninsured can access these medications for little or no cost. I'm proud that Minnesota will now be implementing this common sense program that will increase access to affordable prescriptions drugs and reduce waste in our health care system.
Investments in Education
One of the budget components the DFL House fought especially hard for was the substantial investment in our students. Our final budget increases funding for Minnesota’s public school students by 2 percent for each of the next two years. It also addresses our special education shortfall - filling in a void left by the federal government - with an investment of $90 million. We were also able to extend opportunities for voluntary pre-kindergarten while expanding early learning scholarships, which helps our youngest learners start their education journeys with a solid foundation.
In our community, for example, Northfield Public School would see a $2.4 million increase over the next two years. And Tri-City United Public Schools would see over $1 million in new funding over the next two years.
Stay In Touch!
With the Minnesota Legislature adjourned until February 11, 2019, I’ll continue to be working toward solutions for our community and state. I plan on attending local council meetings, as well as holding Town Halls of my own across the district. I hope you can take this time between sessions to reach out to me with any questions, comments, or solutions you may have. Keep an eye out for invitations to upcoming community meetings, and I look forward to seeing you back in the district.