This week, Minnesota Management and Budget (MMB) released an updated state budget forecast showing a projected $2.4 billion deficit in the current biennium. Thanks to sound fiscal management in recent years, the $2.3 billion in rainy-day fund and budget reserves will help us weather this economic storm. Although we can plan on incoming federal funds to help us further respond to the Minnesotans’ needs during the pandemic, it’s imperative to exercise extreme caution moving forward.
We’re already having to make tough choices during this public health crisis, which is why we should focus on targeted and strategic investments that help our small businesses get back on their feet, keep our public schools strong, ensure our Plymouth neighbors have access to affordable health care, and much more. Our values ought to serve as a budget blueprint now and into the future.
Legislative Action in the House
Securing Safe Elections
This week, with my support, the Minnesota House of Representatives passed bipartisan legislation allowing for the utilization of federal Help America Vote Act (HAVA) funds to ensure the health and safety of election officials and in-person voters. This includes preparation for increased absentee voting, new polling place locations, the purchase of sanitation and disinfectant supplies, and public outreach for implementing social distancing guidelines related to voting. I am disappointed a mail-in voting measure was not included in this bill, however, I’ll continue advocating for it and other safe and secured strategies that encourage civic engagement. You can read my statement here.
Protecting Pay for Hourly School Workers
COVID-19 has changed so much for so many of us — including what it means to go to school and how we deliver an education. Our hourly frontline school employees — paraprofessionals, lunch staff, child care workers, bus drivers, and others — are still working around the clock to help our students in their distance learning endeavors. This week, I voted to protect their economic security by ensuring full pay for the hours they’re putting in and services they are still providing to our students and families.
Elective Surgeries to Resume
Starting next week, doctors, dentists, and veterinarians who create a plan to keep patients and healthcare professionals safe may begin offering these procedures, which can treat chronic conditions, prevent and cure disease, and relieve chronic pain.
Governor Walz’s executive order will allow hospitals, ambulatory surgical centers, and clinics – whether veterinary, medical, or dental – to resume many currently-delayed procedures once facilities have developed criteria for determining which procedures should proceed during the COVID-19 pandemic and provided a plan to maintain a safe environment for facility staff, patients, and visitors. You can read the full executive order here.