Life in our corner of the metro has been pretty good as of late. I’ve talked recently about the many new business relocations and expansions happening close to home – bringing with them economic development and new jobs. Even more recently, I’ve been excited to see Japanese pharmaceutical company Takeda announce they were purchasing the Baxter Pharmaceutical site – and with it remodeling the building and adding an impressive 190 well-paying jobs. We have other signs of development and investment as well – Highway 610 is under construction to connect it to both I-94 and Highway 169. I’m proud to say this critical link received funding from the Corridors of Commerce program and I look forward to its completion.
But as we all know – there are always new mountains to climb, or for me – new legislative issues to tackle. This session, which begins on March 8, I’m looking forward to tackling several key issues. For starters, I want to pick up where we left off last session by addressing inequalities in the Medical Assistance spenddown system. To boil down a complex matter into a simple explanation; what we’re trying to do is bring equity to seniors and people with disabilities who currently must live in near poverty in order to qualify for assistance. This situation affects tens of thousands of Minnesotans. My goal is make it much easier for people who need MA to remain as independent as possible in their communities. When these people receive the care they need and maintain their financial independence, they can be more active members of our communities, which is good for everyone
This legislative session is also a bonding year, which means the legislature will put together a sizeable bonding or capital investment bill which invests in state-owned infrastructure and helps small towns and cities pay for expensive infrastructure repair projects.
The City of Champlin is asking for $3 million to continue phase two of the Mill Pond project which, when it’s completed will help reconnect area residents with the river. There are three rail grade separation projects; Coon Rapids is asking for $23 million for Hanson Boulevard while the city of Ramsey is requesting $10 million for two separate crossings. The projects all aim to build safe passages over highly traveled and dangerous rail crossings. Finally, Anoka-Ramsey Community College is requesting just under $5 million to start construction on a new Nursing and Active Learning Center.
This session I’m also prioritizing my work on compensatory education, which gives extra funds to school districts to help kids from low-income families succeed in school. My proposal would change the way the revenue formula works which currently places a high emphasis on concentration of poverty. My goal is to get school districts, regardless of their concentration of poverty, more targeted money to help lower-income students and put them on a more even footing with their peers. What this could mean for Anoka-Hennepin would be an increase in aid and more help for struggling students.