Senator's View: Minnesota benefiting from federal pandemic legislating

From the column: "The Inflation Reduction Act will save Duluth families hundreds of dollars a year in energy bills and improve air quality."

Framed by the boots of wildland firefighters U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar, from left, U.S. Sen. Tina Smith and Gov. Tim Walz listen to firefighters talk about fighting the Greenwood Fire on Monday, Sept. 6, 2021, in the Superior National Forest near Lake County Highway 2 and the Jackpot Trail OHV trailhead south of Isabella. Clint Austin / Duluth News Tribune

Duluth is an economic, cultural, health, and educational hub for Minnesota and the entire country and deserves strong federal partners. As we take stock in the first days of 2023, the last two years of legislating in Washington have been the most productive in decades, to the great benefit of Duluth and our entire state.

In the face of the largest public health crisis in a century, we took decisive action to help families and small businesses recover. After talking for decades, we passed a transformational infrastructure plan to modernize water systems, broadband internet, and roads and bridges like the Blatnik Bridge. We passed a landmark gun-safety law and a new law that’s already boosting our global competitiveness and bringing manufacturing home to America. We secured the pensions of hard-working Teamsters, and we passed the most important expansion of veterans health care benefits in a generation for veterans exposed to toxic burn pits and radioactive waste.

2023 crystal ball.jpg
Gary Meader / Duluth News Tribune

And, late this summer, Democrats passed the Inflation Reduction Act, the most significant action ever to combat climate change and lower energy and health care costs for Americans. This was a huge deal for clean power and climate action. Thanks to the Inflation Reduction Act, utilities like Minnesota Power will have new help to reach their goal of generating 100% of their power from clean sources while keeping energy rates affordable.

We jump-started the expansion of companies like Heliene on the Iron Range to manufacture solar panels here in the U.S. And we supercharged domestic manufacturing of battery storage, clean cars and buses, and the new technology for the clean-energy transition here in the United States, which will create good-paying union jobs.

The Inflation Reduction Act will save Duluth families hundreds of dollars a year in energy bills and improve air quality. Plus, it makes us far less dependent on autocratic countries like Venezuela, Saudi Arabia, and Russia for the energy we need. No foreign dictator can control when the sun shines or the wind blows: That’s true energy independence.


The impact of the Inflation Reduction Act is just as significant for health care. It lowers health care premiums for more than 70,000 Minnesotans and caps out-of-pocket prescription drug costs for seniors at $2,000 a year. If you get your health insurance through Medicare, you won’t pay more than $35 a month for insulin.

We pay for this by making sure that billion-dollar corporations pay a minimum in federal income taxes and by finally allowing Medicare to negotiate directly with big drug companies for better prices for you. In fact, this law lowers the federal deficit by nearly $240 billion over the next decade.

The best part is that Minnesotans are already seeing the results of this work. Nearly $25 million has already come to Duluth and Northeastern Minnesota for projects to replace outdated utilities systems, expand broadband, build electric-vehicle charging stations, and rebuild roads like West Superior Street.

Our efforts in Washington fueled the innovative work of Gov. Tim Walz to train more than 1,300 nursing assistants. I also appreciate having such a good partner in Mayor Emily Larson, who always works to make certain that investments in local infrastructure projects are being put to their highest and most effective use here in Duluth.

Tribes, too, in the Northland and across Minnesota have benefited from historic investments to build affordable housing, expand high-speed internet, and boost economic development. I’m particularly proud of the passage of my bipartisan legislation that empowers tribes to prosecute trafficking and the abuse of Native children and adults.

It has been a productive two years in the face of significant challenges for Minnesota families. I’m optimistic about continuing our work together.

This year, it will be even more important to find common ground, and one area where I believe that is possible is housing. As chair of the Senate Subcommittee on Housing Transportation and Community Development, I’ll be working to improve access to housing, especially in rural and tribal communities. On the Senate Agriculture Committee, I’ll be working to protect and improve nutrition programs and support rural development and Minnesota’s forestry industry.

As we look to 2023, I’m grateful to Duluth and Northeastern Minnesota for your leadership, innovation, and hard work. I look forward to working with you for a long time to come — for the good of all of Minnesota.


Tina Smith represents Minnesota in the U.S. Senate. She wrote this at the invitation of the News Tribune Opinion page.

Tina Smith
U.S. Sen. Tina Smith of Minnesota

The News Tribune Opinion page again this year asked community leaders and area experts to gaze into a crystal ball and share what 2023 might bring. This column is part of that series.
Sunday, Dec. 25 — Northland economy
Monday, Dec. 26 — Business
Tuesday, Dec. 27 — Tourism
Wednesday, Dec. 28 — City of Duluth
Thursday, Dec. 29 — St. Louis County
Friday, Dec. 30 — Duluth public schools
Saturday, Dec. 31 — Minnesota Legislature
Sunday, Jan. 1 — Downtown Duluth
Monday, Jan. 2 — Public safety
Tuesday, Jan. 3 — D.C.

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