Sen. Erik Simonson
The 2019 legislative session is moving quickly as my colleagues and I work to create a two-year budget to fund essential state programs and services. More than numbers on spreadsheets, the budget is a commitment to the values and priorities Minnesotans share. Essential health care, infrastructure improvement, funding for education: these issues and more are the components that will make up the approximately $48 billion that will go into the budget bill that we ultimately will pass by May 20.
Another year is upon us, and there are a lot of prospects to be excited about in 2019. Duluth is poised to see significant private investments in development and expansion initiatives that should result in new jobs, opportunities to expand our property-tax base, and additional exciting prospects for redevelopment within the core city.
Jobs are a frequent topic of conversation among public officials across our state and country. I pay close attention to the economic health of our state, region, and, most importantly, city of Duluth.
Have you ever thought about the intricacies of trade between Minnesota and Canada and how it impacts your family's budget? Or your business' bottom line? Probably not. Most of us don't even think about Canada as being a foreign country; it's more our friendly and entwined neighbor to the north. But make no mistake, an unnecessary trade war between our two great nations will cause more of us to experience negative effects as our economy deteriorates.
Compromise can have a variety of meanings for different folks. To me, compromise represents the middle ground — and throughout the long-lasting bid for PolyMet to obtain permits to mine in Northeastern Minnesota, there have been several compromises considered. Make no mistake, there are two sides firmly entrenched on the question regarding the viability of the mining proposal. But I can also tell you, based on countless conversations with people in Duluth and across Northeastern Minnesota, that most people lie somewhere between the two margins.
Thinking ahead to the 2018 legislative session, I wish I could anticipate an even-year short session in which we dutifully assemble a statewide capital investment bill and have serious debate and subsequent actions surrounding various policies that need legislative attention. You know, policies that affect all Minnesotans, things like the cost of health care, access to health care providers, opioid abuse, mental health treatment, job creation, and smart tax policy that benefits everyone.
Minnesota's Public Utility Commission wants to hear from you about proposed rate increases that may impact your monthly electric utility bill. The state utility regulators soon will be deciding on a rate increase request by Minnesota Power, an overall electric rate increase of approximately $38 million. Actual percentage increases for individual customers will depend on customer classes and their electricity usage. Minnesota Power states it needs these rate adjustments to cover costs associated with new investments in infrastructure and energy sources.
Duluthians are in the middle of a years-long project in which we are considering creating an earned sick and safe time benefit. Duluth could join the ranks of other cities like Minneapolis and St. Paul, both of which recently passed ordinances requiring employers to provide time off based on the number of hours an employee works. While the Duluth City Council-appointed task force weighs the pros and cons of the policy, a different battle is raging at the state Capitol.