Despite the challenges we’ve faced throughout the COVID-19 crisis, some fundamental truths haven’t changed: Minnesota is a state of abundance; and we value our world-class schools, quality health care, and vibrant communities with opportunities for folks to succeed.
As lawmakers, we have the capacity as well as the responsibility to invest in these priorities which strengthen the outlooks of all Minnesotans, not just now but well into the future.
House DFLers have put forth a budget foundation that would help make our state work for everyone, regardless of where they live or what they look like. We recognize that while the entire state has faced hardship over the last year, the difficulties haven’t been felt equally. Those who struggled prior to the pandemic — people working in low-wage positions and small businesses, for instance — have fared the worst.
Meanwhile, Republicans in control of the Minnesota Senate have prioritized tax cuts for the very richest Minnesotans and large corporations — who are doing better than ever — as well as harmful, across-the-board budget cuts.
Minnesota students, educators, and families have had an uphill battle during the whole pandemic, which has also grown already-persistent opportunity gaps. This session, we will need to make urgent investments in programming to make up for lost learning. Our DFL budget proposal also delivers increased long-term, sustainable investments in the classroom.
We’re also fixing the special-education formula for Duluth Public Schools and delivering new funding so students in Duluth can have a better chance for a brighter future.
While workers were asked to stay home when sick, more than 900,000 of them don’t have access to paid sick days. I’m honored to be chief author of legislation extending earned sick and safe time, a benefit Duluth workers have as a result of local leadership, to all Minnesota workers. Paid family and medical leave is another key economic security priority, enabling workers to take time off to bond with a newborn or to take care of a sick loved one.
Despite these demonstrated health and economic benefits, Republicans refuse to even consider these important solutions, preferring to stand by a status quo that doesn’t work for too many Minnesota families.
Another challenge families face is a lack of child care, with Minnesota families experiencing a growing child-care shortage. I’m proud to have authored legislation — with a total of $12 million of investments contained within our budget — to create new child-care opportunities for families and to help communities support the creation, expansion, sustainability, and success of child-care providers. Our work to create jobs as part of our COVID-19 recovery will be for naught if parents can’t access care for their children.
I truly believe we can make these investments now. But to protect them for the long haul, we’ll need to count on sustainable revenue. The largest corporations and the very wealthiest among us have continued to do well, and they share in our state’s abundance just as much as or more than anyone else. It only makes sense that they pay their fair share.
Rather than investing in our future, Senate Republicans instead put forth a 5% cut across state government. An indiscriminate cut like this would be devastating for Minnesotans and their communities, not only jeopardizing our recovery but putting our progress in defeating COVID-19 at risk.
After all the adversity we’ve been through over the past year, I know folks both here in Duluth and across the state are counting on lawmakers to build a Minnesota that truly works better for everyone. It’s not enough for us to just solve the problems that face us right now. It’s a critical moment to act boldly, with our actions coupled with our resiliency and hopefulness, to deliver the strong future Minnesotans deserve — in every community and from every background.
Rep. Liz Olson serves District 7B in the Minnesota House. She serves as deputy majority leader and speaker pro tempore. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 651-296-4246.