These are the issues I will fight for.
Our state's most important priority will always be education and our students. A well-educated workforce is the linchpin of Minnesota’s economy. We need to improve the quality and relevance of education in our state to prevent opportunity gaps.
Persistent underfunding of local school districts by the State Legislature has led school districts to rely increasingly upon local school property tax levies to close funding gaps. This is leading to both increasing local property taxes and increasingly unequal and inadequate funding of school districts across the state. I will advocate to increase general fund support for education at all levels to enable each school district to provide a quality education to every student.
We need a transportation network that connects our residents to housing and jobs. The state legislature has been kicking the can down the road on the issue of transportation funding for a decade. I will work to secure permanent sustainable funding for our region’s integrated transportation system.
At present, the region’s largest single source of transportation funding is the property taxes which we pay to our cities and counties to maintain city streets and county roads. The state gas tax now funds less than 30% of the cost of building and maintaining our system of roads and bridges, and this percentage shrinks every year. I will use my extensive knowledge of transportation policy solutions to help close our funding gap.
I’m at an age where I have been spending a great deal of time over the last year or so researching the various Medicare options that exist in today’s market. My research has led me to the conclusion that “Medicare for all” (with a Medicare Advantage option) is a viable model for a universal healthcare system which removes the burden of financing healthcare from the backs of employers, a cost that is unfairly burdensome for small businesses. In the meantime, we need to continue supporting options such as MinnesotaCare which provide a healthcare safety net for those without adequate employer-sponsored health insurance.
The Metropolitan Council projects that we need to add 999 new units of housing each year between now and 2040 to satisfy the needs of a growing population. Last year, the region added only 888 new housing units. We need to add 777 units of affordable housing each year for households earning less than 80% of the median regional income. Last year, the region added only 666 new affordable units. We need to make it easier for the housing industry to develop new housing, especially multifamily housing, and at a lower cost than today. I will work to ensure that the legislature continues to provide bonding funding to stimulate the creation of new affordable housing.
First, the legislature must address its own dysfunctional processes. The Minnesota State Constitution requires that all bills be confined to a single subject which is expressed in the bill’s title. However, the State Legislature has not observed this provision and the State Supreme Court has not enforced it. This year, the legislature’s departure from this rule reached a new low, with almost all policy and budgeting provisions being packed into a single bill which was almost a thousand pages in length. Gov. Dayton was right to veto this grossly unconstitutional bill. As a result, many provisions with broad support, including legislation to improve the regulation of assisted living facilities; common sense gun safety provisions such as universal background checks and a prohibition on the sale of military assault rifles and bump stocks; and the “hands-free” bill to prohibit the use of handheld cell phones while driving, were not passed into law. Former House Speaker and new State Supreme Court Justice Paul Thissen has suggested that this problem be addressed by amending the Rules governing the conduct of the State Legislature to enforce the “single subject rule”. My first action upon filing to run for the State House was to obtain a copy of the current House Rules so that I could figure out how best to implement Justice Thissen’s suggestion at the beginning of the next legislative session.
An urgent order of business for the Minnesota House needs to be a bill which updates the state tax code to reflect the changes that were made to the federal income tax structure at the end of last year. The tax conformance bill which was vetoed by Gov. Dayton at the end of this year’s legislative session included a provision which would have granted a $200 million tax credit to state corporations (which have already received a huge tax break the federal level). Perhaps of greater concern, the bill included provisions which would have led to a huge budget deficit in future years. When the legislature reconvenes, we need to immediately pass a tax conformance bill which protects Minnesota taxpayers from automatic state income tax increases which would otherwise result from the federal tax structure changes, and simplifies the filing of Minnesota income taxes. Any overall reduction in state income tax collections resulting from this bill should be focused on reducing the taxes paid by middle-class families.