As the legislative season came down to the wire, Minnesota’s elected officials created a state budget during a daylong special session.
Eden Prairie News reached out to the city’s elected officials to ask them about the session and if they achieved their goals. State Sen. Steve Cwodzinski, DFL-Eden Prairie was elected in 2016 and reflected compromise and the nature of legislative systems.
Cwodzinski answered the following questions from Eden Prairie News on June 3:
How was it serving in a divided legislature? Did you achieve the goals you wanted to at the start of the session?
It was an incredible opportunity. We are the only divided legislature in the country and we showed that compromise is possible. We didn’t get everything we wanted, but I am proud to say that everyone was able to achieve some of their goals. We saved MinnesotaCare, stopped the growth of the special education funding gap, increased the education funding formula by 2% each year, and passed meaningful legislation to address our state’s opioid addiction crisis and prevent distracted driving.
What progress did you as a legislator make in work on the opioid crisis? On gun control?
On opioids, too many of my former students are dying far too young. Through fees on prescription drug companies, we were able to invest over $20 million in proven methods to treat and prevent opioid addiction.
On gun violence prevention, we were loud and made our voices heard. I coauthored legislation on universal background checks and red flag laws, but I was disappointed to see a lack of legislative progress on either of these. Most senators refused to negotiate on them, but we will not give up on this. I am hopeful that we can get something done next year.
How do you feel about how the gas tax ended in the legislature?
Our state needs a sustainable and reliable funding source for infrastructure, since there is simply not enough money in the general fund to address our need. The American Society of Civil Engineers gave our infrastructure a C rating, and it is only getting worse. The longer we wait on this, the more expensive it will be. The investment we make now can pay dividends down the road with the money it can save consumers on car maintenance and the jobs we will create.
Is Minnesota’s government doing enough to mitigate climate change?
No, and I think our state’s youth are feeling that the strongest. They will not let this issue be ignored any longer, and us legislators need to value what they have to say. Young people are not feeling apathetic, and that fills me with hope for the future of our planet. They are using their power and exercising their civic duty to make sure us legislators are addressing their top priority.
Would you change Minnesota’s health care system? Why or why not? Do you support Medicare for all?
We need the MinnesotaCare/OneCare buy-in. Costs are astronomical for consumers, and allowing a public option will help hold profit-motivated health providers accountable. We also need to pass the Alex Smith Emergency Insulin Act. People are dying because of how expensive insulin is, and we need cost controls. Our health care system is far from perfect, the current system is unsustainable, we need a long term plan that brings both sides of the aisle to the table. These both fit that description.
At the start of the session, you said you anticipated some problems around Minnesota’s tax alignment with federal tax codes; did you hear from constituents about tax issues?
The primary tax concern I heard about from constituents was conformity, which I was happy to see resolved. Minnesotans should have an easier time filing their taxes next year.
Why do you believe the Minnesota legislature ends up in special session so frequently?
I think the legislative sessions typically end the way they do because that was the system our founders created. It’s not perfect, but it is one with deadlines. It’s not until these deadlines get close that opposed parties feel the pressure to compromise, and that is exactly the way our process was intended to work. Special sessions might be happening more frequently because state government is more complicated than it was twenty years ago.