With Minnesota the only state in the union that elected a politically divided legislature, all three of us are proud of the example we set for the rest of the country this past legislative session. We proved that even in a time of widespread political acrimony, compromise is possible. We made solid investments in education, from early childhood through higher education and career training. We protected access to health care for more than a million Minnesotans. We delivered a middle-class income tax cut — the first in almost two decades. As a result of these bipartisan accomplishments, Minnesota is moving forward.
We heard from educators, parents, and community leaders about how critical investments in education are to our shared prosperity and how underfunding schools leads to poor outcomes. We’re proud of our education budget, which includes a two percent increase in the basic funding formula for each of the next two years. Significantly, as the federal government refuses to uphold their end of the bargain, our budget delivers resources to freeze the special education funding gap for the first time ever.
Early learning opportunities are critical to ensuring that our children can succeed later in life. With our bipartisan compromise, we ensured that 4,000 slots for voluntary pre-kindergarten will continue into the future. We also expanded access to early learning scholarships and affordable child care, and at the same time passed significant protections to ensure program integrity. These investments in our youngest Minnesotans will pay off substantial dividends for years to come.
We also made meaningful strides in higher education, working to make college more affordable for everyone. Students at our University of Minnesota and Minnesota State campuses are asked to pay a share of their education cost well beyond statutory guidelines, and this is leading to mountains of student loan debt. It is time to start controlling these costs, and our work puts us on a path to do just that.
We accomplished many other objectives that will improve the lives of Minnesotans. We preserved a critical funding source for health care, ensuring it remains available for the 1.2 million who depend on MinnesotaCare and Medical Assistance coverage. As our state’s opioid crisis continues out of control, we enacted a strong package of solutions to help save lives while holding Big Pharma accountable for their role in this public health disaster. Under constant threat of foreign interference, we secured funding for election security. Seniors and vulnerable adults will have more protections under the package of elder care reforms we approved, including licensure of assisted living facilities.
Still, there is much left to do. We hear the demand for measures to prevent senseless gun violence. We share the frustration that these measures passed the House but were rejected by Republicans in the Senate. We feel the effects of climate change, even as the window to mitigate this global disaster is closing. We must lead the way into a new clean energy economy. Our transportation infrastructure is crumbling, and we need to fix our roads and bridges. In fact, civil engineers gave Minnesota roads a grade of “D+,” and none of us should be content with infrastructure that’s dangerous, leads to congestion, and causes costly repairs. We know that the cost and availability of health care is still a major burden for too many families.
We know that the cost and availability of health care is still a major burden for too many families. We need to do more to get these costs under control including the soaring costs of prescription drugs. The Alec Smith Emergency Insulin Act is one example of how to ensure that no one would have to put their lives in danger because they could not afford their medications. Next session we will again try to get this legislation passed.
Looking to the future, we’re committed to working on these and other issues important to our shared values. We’re grateful to represent engaged communities, and we hope you’ll contact us anytime with your ideas and viewpoints. It is a joy and a pleasure for the three of us to work together representing Eden Prairie and Minnetonka. We remain hopeful about what we can achieve by working together as we strengthen Minnesota’s future.
Sen. Steve Cwodzinski, DFL-Eden Prairie, represents District 48. Rep. Laurie Pryor, DLF-Minnetonka, represents District 48A. Rep. Carlie Kotyza-Witthuhn, DFL-Eden Prairie, represents District 48B.