In November, Minnesotans chose a new direction for the Legislature, putting DFLers in the majority in the House of Representatives. I want to thank the people of Minnesota and my own District 7A voters for choosing a message of hope over the partisan gamesmanship driven largely by special interests over the last few sessions. Now we have an opportunity to make a difference in many areas, including health care, education, and economic security for families.
Health care remains the top issue for many voters. In Minnesota, we have the chance to replace massive, budget-busting subsidies for insurance companies with a public option such as the MinnesotaCare buy-in proposal. I will be spending significant time working on a public option to bring Minnesotans the health care they need at prices they can afford. I also will be supporting a refundable premium tax credit for individuals who do not receive employer-sponsored health insurance and do not qualify for subsidies. This tax credit would even the playing field for those who purchase health insurance on the individual market.
The budget will once again be an issue. Although we start with a nominal $1.5 billion balance, the budget office is forbidden to adjust expenditures by inflation (though revenue is adjusted upward by inflation). Inflation reduces the balance to $456 million, giving us considerably less budget slack. In addition, a large majority of economists believe our current recovery, now approaching a record 10 years, shows signs that it may begin contracting soon. In fact, the November state individual income tax revenue was $19 million below the forecast. We need to face facts and make prudent preparation.
As we all know in Minnesota, saving for the future is the way to avoid unexpected disasters of the type that led to deep cuts to schools, health care, and local government under Gov. Tim Pawlenty. As an economist, I will be pushing the new DFL majority and governor to make responsible budgeting decisions that will carry Minnesota forward, regardless of the national economic climate.
One other challenge coming soon is the political reapportionment that will follow the 2020 Census. I am the sponsor of a bill to remove reapportionment from politics and create an independent commission to map legislative districts. We need to avoid the partisan gerrymandering that has occurred in Wisconsin and other states. I'll be working to protect the right of everyone to have their vote counted fairly.
In addition to working on legislation, I'll be chairwoman of the House Long Term Care Committee. For nearly a year we've worked on solutions to improve conditions in senior-care facilities, hold bad actors accountable, and ensure seniors and their families know their rights. Working groups of consumers, advocates, and providers have been meeting since September to provide recommendations to address abuse and improve conditions. As chairwoman, I'm committed to passing legislation with support from these groups.
Minnesota remains the most prosperous state in the Midwest and has a business climate uniformly considered one of the best in the country. Take-home pay in Minnesota is among the highest in the country and much higher than in neighboring states. We can thank past decisions that gave us outstanding education, research, transportation and infrastructure, and a workforce that is second to none. We owe it to our kids to continue the Minnesota tradition of investing in our future. With prudent fiscal programs that feature saving and investment, we will continue to improve the quality of life for everyone.
As always, I invite individuals to contact me with concerns and questions. As your public servant, I'm eager to help.
Rep. Jennifer Schultz is the DFL representative of Minnesota House District 7A in eastern Duluth. She wrote this at the invitation of the News Tribune Opinion page.
ABOUT THIS SERIES
The News Tribune Opinion page asked community leaders to look into their crystal balls and to share their insights into what the new year might bring.
Tuesday: City of Duluth
Wednesday: St. Louis County
Thursday: Duluth school district
TODAY: Minnesota Legislature
Sunday: Washington, D.C.
Monday: The economy
What do you see in your crystal ball? Join the conversation with a letter to the editor. They can be sent to email@example.com.