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Lawmaker's view: Session ends with disappointment

On Friday, the Minnesota Legislature held a special session that concluded a disappointing year. Like most Minnesotans, I was not pleased the Legislature was unable to conclude its business on time or with the content of the resulting compromise ...

Rep. Jennifer Schultz

On Friday, the Minnesota Legislature held a special session that concluded a disappointing year. Like most Minnesotans, I was not pleased the Legislature was unable to conclude its business on time or with the content of the resulting compromise bills.
As a representative from greater Minnesota, I was even more disappointed. We began the year with the House majority promising to provide programs for greater Minnesota but ended it with the failure of important legislation.
Most disappointing was the ongoing failure to address the issue of transportation infrastructure. In greater Minnesota, we are used to living at the end of a very long road to anywhere, but we would like that road to be safe and efficient for our businesses and people. A bipartisan commission worked hard to develop a plan to solve the problems that a decade of neglect of transportation infrastructure left us and to create the new infrastructure we need to prosper in the 21st century. This is critical for the economic growth of the state and especially of our area but has been derailed by shortsighted demands for a free lunch and refusals to create the revenue streams needed.
The weakening of education was another failure. Education is the other important engine of economic success. It is especially important in areas like ours, which are in transition from a fading extraction-based economy to a 21st-century growth economy. At all levels, from pre-K to graduate school, we need our children to have access to programs that will prepare them for the world they must live in. The canceling of the tuition freeze, the underfunding of higher education, and the rejection of important programs to keep the University of Minnesota and MnSCU at a top level for both education and research will deprive working-class children of access to the education they need and rob our businesses of the research they need to stay ahead of competition.
Failure to follow through with the creation of broadband networks that serve greater Minnesota, ending programs for job creation and entrepreneurship in greater Minnesota and other cutbacks of programs designed to encourage growth all were disappointing as well.
We can be thankful for some victories. The House majority’s plans to gut Duluth’s Local Government Aid and abolish MinnesotaCare were blocked. And the final education bill included much-needed increases in school aid that will help keep up with rising costs.
However, we apparently still need lessons in how the world works. Minnesota is one of the most successful states in the country economically and the most successful state in the Midwest. That is not an accident. Historically, a commitment to quality infrastructure and education and to critical research by our universities has been the secret to our success. To destroy that now in favor of tax givebacks to big corporations and to high-income people would be extremely shortsighted.
There were other highs and lows in this year’s session. Environmental issues were mixed at best, and the punitive attack on the Auditor’s Office was alarming and probably unconstitutional. However, we were able to secure money for the Cirrus expansion, the Duluth Children’s Museum and the Great Lakes Aquarium, as well as authorization for our local seed library.
For next year, I will work for bonding for the steam plant/Superior Street project, the University of Minnesota Duluth chemistry building and the Western Lake Superior Sanitary District.
As your representative, I’ll work tirelessly to promote policy that has sound economic and scientific impact. You can count on me to work hard to support colleagues and elect new members who support that approach. All Minnesotans should demand that.
My first year in the Legislature has been exciting, rewarding and a learning experience. I appreciated the help and leadership I received from Reps. Mary Murphy and Erik Simonson.
I continue to seek your input and ideas, and invite you to contact me anytime. I am grateful for the honor and privilege of being your representative.

Rep. Jennifer Schultz, DFL-Duluth, represents District 7A in the Minnesota House. Contact her at rep.jennifer.schultz@house.mn or at (651) 296-2228.

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