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In my years in the Minnesota House of Representatives, I have noticed that everyone talks about saving our middle class economy. Our actions, however, can tell a different story. We hear calls to cut education, defund health programs, let our roads fall apart, resist sustainable energy solutions, and support economic policies that have us working more for less. We are told we must go it alone, that our neighbor’s problems have nothing to do with us. We are told to ignore Paul Wellstone’s great advice: “We all do better when we all do better.”
As we go down this road, more and more of us find that our neighbor’s problems are now our problems. Our children don’t have the schools we think they should, we worry more about health care, the roads we drive have more potholes, our climate is harsher, and our paycheck doesn’t go as far as it used to. All of this adds up to shrinking opportunities, not just for us, but for our neighbors and our children. We find ourselves thinking that everyone deserves at least the opportunity for a good life, but wondering, “Where will those opportunities come from?”
Those opportunities come more easily for those who have the good fortune to live in a middle class economy. To make sure everyone has that advantage, we must focus on the things we have to do together. Our spending priorities must respect what I call “the five building blocks of a middle class society”: education, health care, transportation, clean energy, and living wage jobs. Maintaining these foundations must be our number one legislative priority if we are to provide ourselves, our neighbors, and our children with the opportunities they deserve.
I can hear the objections already: “This is too expensive! Where will the money come from?” When people say “We can’t afford this!” we will also have to remind them that, even more so, we can’t afford the alternative, that is, a Third World economy in which most of us lack for opportunity. That is not the American dream. This was not the intent of those who wrote our Constitution. And this is not a path that will lead us out of the despair that motivates so many voters in today’s elections.
Tax breaks for the rich, small government, and ideological shouting matches simply cannot, and will not, get us where we need to be. What will get us back where we need to be is restoring our priorities so that they are in line with the idea of opportunities for all. We are still the world’s richest country. What we do with that great wealth and what policies can make better use of that wealth to continue to create opportunity and prosperity is everyone’s business.
Changing the conversation about how we move forward and build and maintain a middle class economy is not an easy task. This is going to be a big job, far too big for any one of us, or even any group of us, to get done on our own. All of us working together is a different story. We can get this done as it was done once before. We can renew our calling to build “a more perfect union” for all Americans. And we can live in country where the words “The Land of Opportunity” truly mean something, not just for a privileged few, but for each and every one of us.
David Bly represents House District 20B in the Minnesota Legislature. His most recent book is We All Do Better: Economic Priorities for a Land of Opportunity (www.WeAllDoBetter.com)
Best Life Alliance requires support
By DAVID BLY Guest columnist
Our 10-week legislative session is now almost half over.
Most of this week consisted of long hours in committees satisfying what’s known as the “first deadline.” For many bills to remain alive, they must have been heard in either the House or Senate by the end of Friday. It’s a bit like finals week in college where we spend most of our waking hours together getting our work done.
One of the important bills heard early last week was the “Best Life Alliance’s” 5-percent rate increase for home and community-based care providers. You may recall last year we raised rates for nursing home workers by 5 percent. People who care for our loved ones are woefully underpaid which makes those tough positions harder to fill and leaves gaps in care.
Last week I was visited by Alex and a couple of friends who came to remind me how important it is to them to be able to receive the services their care workers provide. Because of the support they have they can participate and contribute to the communities they live in. They explained that they do become attached to the workers and really hate when they are forced to leave for better wages.
Since we took the step to support, attract and retain more nursing home workers last year, we’ve seen great results. Unfortunately, the dedicated staff that provide home and community-based services are now at a competitive disadvantage. The Best Life Alliance is a bipartisan group of organizations and people advocating to provide a 5 percent increase for those providing care in community settings or in people’s homes. There are two really important reasons why we should support these caregivers.
First, home and community-based providers help maintain the greatest quality of life possible for people. The disabled adults and elderly people who live in community settings or are able to stay in their homes enjoy being able to live, work or otherwise continue to be a part of the larger community. People thrive when they’re given new opportunities or can remain in the familiar and comfortable setting of their home.
Second, home and community-based care can save the state money. Disabled people who would have been in costly and grim institutions now can live in community settings with personalized services based on their needs. People can also avoid or delay entering expensive nursing homes when they’re able to stay at home with a bit of help.
Without adequate wages, we’re going to see the shortage of people able or willing to provide this care grow, which will in turn force more people into nursing homes or care settings that are less fulfilling, alienating and more costly.
Thousands of Minnesotans benefit from the care they receive in community settings or in their homes, whether they’re elderly or disabled. That care is often provided by dedicated people who work for wages far below what they deserve. Seven years ago when we were cutting funds that went to these workers I stood on the House floor to oppose those cuts and spoke about my father who would take me along with his boy scout troop to visit the disabled in the Faribault State setting. He told me of the time he spent in an isolated institution and that “we must never forget to extend a hand of care to those who cannot care for themselves.”
I know we must not forget.
Rep. David Bly (DFL-Northfield), serves Minnesota House District 20B. He can be reached by phone at 651-296-0171, or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The 10 week legislative session is moving along quickly. We’re now in the third week and legislation is being introduced and heard in committees. Here are a few items I would like to update you on:
Legislative Survey and Column
I had my session preview column published in the Northfield News entitled “Focus at Capitol continues to ensure economy works for everyone.” I hope you’ll take a look at it and let me know what you think. Also, please feel free to take my legislative survey so I’ll know what you want us to focus on in Saint Paul: https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/Bly2016Survey
Agriculture Bills Heard in Committee
I’ve had great bipartisan reception on two agriculture bills recently. The first would help beginning farmers get started through tax credits for buying or renting farm equipment and other tax incentives. The second bill would keep Minnesota’s Organic Task Force going through 2018, instead of ending on June 30, 2016.
I’m hopeful we will see progress in agriculture to draw new farmers and to help bolster Minnesota’s growing organic farming industry.
Meeting with Constituents
A lot of you have been visiting the Capitol and sharing your priorities with me. It’s always exiting to see people come and explain why they’re passionate about issues. Below are pictures of me meeting with the prosperity for all group and people advocating for the arts.
We All Do Better
I recently wrote a new book, “We All Do Better: Economic Priorities for a Land of Opportunity.” Here is a brief excerpt from the introduction:
“In my years in the Minnesota House of Representatives, I have noticed that everyone talks about saving our middle class economy. Our actions, however, can tell a different story. We hear calls to cut education, defund health programs, let our roads fall apart, resist sustainable energy solutions, and support economic policies that have us working more for less. We are told we must go it alone, that our neighbor’s problems have nothing to do with us. We are told to ignore Paul Wellstone’s great advice: ‘We all do better when we all do better.’”
In my work as your voice at the Capitol, my continued focus this session will be on making sure the economy works for everyone, not just those who can hire someone to be at the Capitol on a daily basis.
PRE – 3
This week, lawmakers introduced a package of bills to give all children a strong start in life by making child care more affordable, supporting child care providers, expanding access to care, and increasing infant and child wellbeing. The “Pre to 3” legislative package targets investments and reforms that support children and families from prenatal to three years of age, a critical time period to ensure that children are healthy and prepared for success later in life.
The “Pre to 3” package also includes investments and reforms to support child care providers. Some of the reforms include efforts to streamline and simplify regulations for child care providers and requiring that the Department of Human Services make prompt payments to child care providers.
The “Pre to 3” package aims to increase infant and child wellbeing by increasing funding for home visiting and funding at-home infant care for new parents so more can afford to stay home with their babies. In addition, legislators would fully fund Early Head Start so at-risk children receive targeted care and services to promote healthy brain and social/emotional development
To view details of the proposal, click on the link:
Pre to 3: Investments to give all children a strong start in life
Legislation to Aid Veterans introduced
Lawmakers are proposing legislation to provide additional support for Minnesota veterans. With Minnesota experiencing a $900 million surplus, the package reinforces prioritizing care and assistance services for our veterans. Key components of the bill include:
Increases access to mental health services: Funds and allows the Soldiers’ Assistance Fund to cover court-ordered mental health and substance abuse counseling for veterans.
Financial relief while transitioning to a veteran home: Creates a tax credit for veterans who are staying in private nursing homes to help ease the financial burden while they wait for a bed in a veteran’s nursing home.
Expanding health coverage for veterans and guardsmen: Creates a feasibility study for providing health insurance to veterans and guardsmen to extend coverage beyond the health insurance programs provided by the federal VA and the Department of Defense.
Reducing domestic violence: Expands opportunities for veterans to participate in the Change Step Program for veterans who need domestic abuse counseling and education.
Ending veteran homelessness and honoring those who have served: Increases funding to address veterans homelessness and provides additional money to reimburse veterans service organizations for providing honor guards at veterans’ funerals.
Increases support for veterans who have struggled to reintegrate: Similar to drug courts, Veterans Courts provide problem-solving treatment and therapy instead of punitive court sentencing. These courts better recognize both the service and struggles many veterans experience.
The bill was introduced and was referred this week to the State Government Finance Division.
Don’t Forget your Property Tax Refund or Renter’s Credit
As a friendly reminder, don’t forget to file for your Renter’s Property Tax or Homestead Credit Refund. To see if you qualify, take a look at the Minnesota Department of Revenue’s Instruction Guide. The forms can be accessed here.
The Minnesota Department of Revenue also has information available on filing for free on their website. If you want to file yourself and wonder if you qualify for free electronic filing products or you want assistance from a free tax preparation site, visit this page.
Additionally, the IRS has free filing information available on their website. On the homepage of their website under the banner “Hot Topics” you will see a link entitled “Get Free Tax Preparation Help” or “Free File Tax Software”.
Please don’t forget to take my legislative survey at https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/Bly2016Survey. As always, feel free to contact me at email@example.com or call me at 651-296-5882