We are closing in on two years of living with COVID-19. For most of us, these have been two of the most difficult years of our lives. We are exhausted and frustrated.
We’ve lost more than 11,000 Minnesotans and 850,000 Americans to this virus. Health professionals are at a breaking point. Students and educators are struggling through another COVID school year. Despite a rapidly recovering economy, people feel like they can’t get ahead — they want jobs with better wages and benefits, and to be treated with dignity and respect in the workplace.
As we near the start of the 2022 legislative session, Democrats in the majority in the Minnesota House are focused on families’ economic security and public safety. The state’s projected $7.7 billion surplus allows us to make investments to improve the state on both counts and address the challenges people are facing every day.
Last year, the DFL-led Minnesota House worked with Gov. Tim Walz and the Republican-led Senate to reach a bipartisan budget agreement. The compromise budget didn’t contain some provisions Democrats wanted to better meet the needs of Minnesotans, and it’s clear that the budget we worked with Republicans to pass comes up short when it comes to families’ economic security.
The pandemic has made plain how important it is to be able to take paid time off to care for ourselves or our loved ones when we are sick. It’s time for us to ensure all employees have access to paid family and medical leave. Many large employers already provide it, while many small businesses would like to but cannot afford to offer this benefit. A state program would help small businesses who compete for talent with large corporations, would protect public health, and would improve economic security for families.
DFLers are ready to provide significant bonuses to improve the economic security of front-line workers who put their health at risk to keep our communities stable during the pandemic. We’re also willing to work with the business community to address Minnesota’s Unemployment Insurance Trust Fund deficit.
House DFLers support tax cuts for workers and families struggling to make ends meet, and will critically examine Republican proposals for tax giveaways to large corporations and the wealthy — many of whom are doing better than ever.
Families’ economic security is inextricably linked with their ability to find child care, but Minnesotans have been struggling with an inaccessible and unaffordable system that was in crisis long before the pandemic. House DFLers support significant investments in early care and learning to close opportunity gaps, support families and help our economy.
K-12 schools and higher education institutions also need resources, especially in special education, mental health, school support personnel, and community and technical education.
No family has economic security if they cannot afford the health care they need. This session, DFLers will continue our efforts to provide Minnesotans with a public option and lower the cost of prescription drugs.
For decades, our infrastructure has suffered from underinvestment. The new federal infrastructure law will make substantial progress, but we shouldn’t stop there. We have the opportunity to make once-in-a-generation investments in areas like affordable housing that we know will strengthen our communities, create jobs and improve economic security for families.
All Minnesotans deserve to be safe in their communities. As Rep. Cedrick Frazier recently pointed out (“Innovation will lead to public safety reform,” Opinion Exchange, Jan. 14), we need an approach to public safety that includes tools for law enforcement and for communities, including highly skilled police officers who are trusted by the communities they serve. DFLers are working on legislation based on what’s been proven to be effective at reducing crime, including investments in community crime prevention services, restoring community confidence by improving accountability, and funding beat patrol and investigatory work to increase law enforcement’s capacity and effectiveness. We will continue to work in partnership with law enforcement, prosecutors, community advocates and victims to ensure Minnesota has a public safety system that protects everyone.
Through all the challenges of the last two years, one thing is still clear: Minnesotans care about their families, neighbors and communities. They want a state that works better for everyone — no matter what we look like or where we live.
This session, House DFLers will work to make progress building that better future.
Rep. Melissa Hortman, DFL-Brooklyn Park, is speaker of the Minnesota House.