An Economy That Works for All of Us
Minnesota is subject to the economic winds that blow throughout the country, but we don’t have to simply accept what gets blown our way. We can build an economy that works for all of us, not just the wealthy and well connected.
We can foster opportunity for Minnesotans who want to get ahead and will work hard to do it. We can continue to attract and retain talented workers who will build our future economy. We have the ingredients. What we need is the will. Here's how we do it:
Health Care for All ⌄
Too many Minnesotans can’t get the care they need when they need it. For some, the cost of insurance is too high. For others who have insurance, the costs insurance doesn’t cover are more than they can afford. For those on public programs, getting care can still be a challenge. People should not have to worry about getting the health care they need because of the cost.
The Affordable Care Act was a valiant attempt to improve a failing insurance system. While it has done a lot of good, it did not go far enough. A system based on insurance will always be costly, complicated, and wasteful for patients, doctors, and employers.
“Preserving the market” for insurance is the wrong goal. Our goal must be making sure that every Minnesotan can access quality health care at a price they can afford.
Insurance works by sharing an uncommon risk among people who buy into the insurance “pool.” For example, fire insurance works because fires are rare. If your house burns down, the money you and others have paid for insurance is available to cover your loses. The risk of a fire has been shared among those who bought insurance.
But insurance does not work for health care because we all need it throughout our lives. Some need little care, but others will need much more, usually due to circumstances beyond our control.
In America, and in Minnesota, we waste billions of dollars deciding who gets care, how much, and at what price—instead of paying for the care we need. Minnesota can lead the nation in moving toward a system where people can choose who provides their health care but don’t have to choose or deal with insurance companies. Some call this “single payer,” but that term describes a method rather than an outcome. Whatever we call it, we need to remove the barriers between Minnesotans and health care.
In Minnesota, we can start by getting insurance companies out of our public programs. That’s right: Minnesota contracts with insurance companies to cover people on public programs, about 1.1 million Minnesotans. These companies then turn around and contract with health care providers to provide care. This means that Minnesotans on public programs must still deal with insurance companies and health care providers must deal with multiple insurance companies, even for patients on public assistance. This system has been in place for many years—and started with the laudable purpose of using insurance company networks to help people get care. Now it mainly adds unnecessary complication and cost to what would otherwise be a “single payer” public system.
It is time to cut out the middleman. Our state can take back control and improve our public programs by contracting directly with healthcare providers on behalf of patients. The only thing stopping us is the power that these big insurers have over Minnesota’s government.
Making high quality healthcare accessible and affordable to all would be an enormous boost for Minnesota’s economy, because healthy people are more productive, and no one would be stuck in the wrong job just for health insurance. We can create a Minnesota health care system that is high quality, affordable and easy to access.
A Fair Tax System ⌄
Minnesotans are willing to pay taxes, so long as our taxes are fair and our money is used well. Tina believes that a fair tax system is “progressive,” meaning those who earn more pay a larger percentage of their income. Minnesotans who are doing well must pay their fair share of taxes. Then Minnesota can afford to give everyone opportunities to succeed.
Adding a “fourth tier” higher income tax rate for the wealthiest Minnesotans was a good start. The next step should be to examine Minnesota’s tax code for outdated, unfair tax breaks that favor the wealthy and don’t move our economy forward.
A Minimum Wage That’s a Living Wage ⌄
A person who works full time should be able to meet the basic needs of her family, but many can not. When employers are permitted to pay non-sustaining wages, taxpayers must fill the gap with food support, housing support, and other needs. This is a subsidy for employers and undermines the dignity of the worker. I’m proud to have voted to raise Minnesota’s minimum wage and to have it apply equally to tipped employees, but we must continue to raise the minimum wage until all full-time work in Minnesota pays a living wage. We must also strengthen other workplace rights, such as earned sick time and paid family leave. Let’s allow everyone the dignity and security to get better at home or have the time to visit a physician then return to work healthy and productive.
Unions created the middle class by organizing for better wages and working conditions, but union membership has eroded. I support and defend the right to organize and bargain collectively, because this is one of the best tools we have to raise work standards and give Minnesotans a chance at a better future.
High Quality Child Care ⌄
Every Minnesota child—without exception—deserves the best possible start in life. High quality child care is essential for many Minnesota families. Parents can’t focus on work or school unless they know their children are in a safe and supportive place, but high quality child care is in short supply and too often unaffordable.
We must support many models of child care—from home day care to Head Start—so families have convenient and high quality options. Minnesota has a Child Care Assistance Program (CCAP) to help more working parents afford the cost, but it is underfunded and leaves many struggling families without help. Building an excellent, affordable system of day care and support for our youngest kids is one of the most important things Minnesota can do for our future.
Fully Funded Public Education ⌄
Funding for Minnesota’s public schools has not kept up with inflation, and this is shortchanging our students. As state support has fallen, school districts must try to get more funding from local property taxes, which means communities without a big tax base have schools that don’t have enough resources for their students. Fully and appropriately funding our public education system at the state level will help all students succeed. Adequate school counselors and other support professionals are also needed to help students make sound education and career decisions based on their interests and talents and remove barriers that keep students from achieving their dreams.
Minnesota’s constitution says: “The stability of a republican form of government depending mainly upon the intelligence of the people, it is the duty of the legislature to establish a general and uniform system of public schools. The legislature shall make such provisions by taxation or otherwise as will secure a thorough and efficient system of public schools throughout the state.” Minnesota must live up to this promise.
No-Cost College Credits and Relief for Student Debt ⌄
In the 21st century, careers that can sustain a family require education beyond high school. Though we spend millions helping students get free college credits through the Post-Secondary Education Options program most students don’t use the program. All Minnesota students deserve the opportunity to go to college or get career skills. Making the first two years of post-high school education at a public college or university FREE to Minnesota students would take pressure off struggling families while ensuring our workforce is well trained for the needs of the economy.
In connection with free college, we should establish a “Minnesota Peace Corps” where young people could work in an area of need for one or two years after finishing college. Other students could earn loan forgiveness to reduce educational debt. This could ease our workforce shortage in critical areas, while giving young people valuable job experience.
A Government That Works for All of Us
Too often, Minnesotans don’t see government working for us. We work more jobs and longer hours just to stay afloat and worry what the future will be for us and our families. We see large corporations and other special interests speaking loudly and being heard in government, while our concerns are too often ignored. We need a government that works for all of us, not just the rich and powerful.
High Ethical Standards and Transparency ⌄
We must promote high ethical standards and transparency for all who have the honor to serve the public.
Our laws permit public officials to take trips—junkets—that are paid for by foundations or other organizations (but not by lobbyists or an organization sponsoring a lobbyist). These organizations include ALEC, an organization of large corporations that writes corporate-friendly legislation for legislators (almost always Republicans) to introduce in their states. My amendment to require disclosure of these trips by members of the Minnesota House was voted down by Republicans.
Not all sponsored trips are bad, but the recipient should be required to disclose these perks to the public.
We must make sure that the wealthy and well connected play by the same rules as everyone else.
Public money should be invested only where the public—not billionaire owners or another special interest group—will reap the benefits commensurate with the investment. This is why I voted “no” on the Vikings and Twins stadium deals.
Diversity and Justice ⌄
Our diversity is our strength, but Minnesota’s gaps in health, wealth, and opportunity are holding us back. Peaceful civil disobedience has often been the catalyst that moves society toward justice. We don’t need additional penalties or threats to those who step forward to make change. The right to protest—and sometimes even to get arrested for it—strengthens our democracy.
The well-publicized police killings of African American people and the killings of police officers have torn the bandage off an old and festering wound. We must create a culture and system that allow for fair and just treatment of all Minnesotans. Law enforcement officers have a tough job, but they must always be held to high and clear standards and accountable to the public.
We need a new standard for law enforcement’s use of force—as exists in some other countries. Officers should be expected to control a situation without using deadly force except as a last resort. This means staying out of harm’s way themselves unless there is an immediate threat to life.
Free Speech and Right to Privacy ⌄
We must protect the freedom of every Minnesotan to speak their mind, maintain their privacy, and make their own important decisions. Government should not infringe on personal decisions that don’t impact the health and safety of others—such as who to love and marry, whether and where to worship, which bathroom to use, and how and when to reproduce.
Get Big Money Out of Politics ⌄
We need to get the big money out of politics so politicians respond to voters, not dollars.
Minnesota already provides some public financing for state campaigns that agree to restrict campaign spending, and state law restricts how much an individual can donate to a campaign, but these programs are constantly under attack. Even with this financing, special interests overwhelm candidates’ campaigns through “independent expenditure” groups, whose backers are allowed to remain secret.
The US Supreme Court opened the floodgates of special interest money with the Citizens United opinion and Minnesota cannot overrule it. However, we can insist on knowing who is behind the big spending and work on other ways to make sure that the voice of the voter—not the big donor—is the one that’s heard.
Protect Our Environment ⌄
We need not choose between jobs and protecting our environment. Minnesota cannot let corporate greed steal our children’s inheritance.
Before we allow corporations to exploit our natural resources, we must make sure the environment is protected and that sufficient financial guarantees are in place to pay for any cleanup. After the fact, we must hold them accountable for any harm they caused. Too often, polluters have made their money and left the cleanup to the taxpayer. We Minnesotans love our natural resources and will have to stay vigilant to make sure we keep them.
As energy production evolves so must Minnesota. In 2007, Minnesota passed a renewable energy standard of 25% by 2025. Many utilities are close to achieving the goal, but we can and must do even better. I support the current proposal for 50% of our energy to come from renewables by 2030. This is not only better for our environment and Minnesotans’ wallets, it creates good paying jobs. Clean energy jobs grew 78 percent from 2000 to 2014, compared to total 11 percent for total employment in the state.
Our children deserve to grow up in a healthy environment, whether they live in the city, the country, or somewhere in between. Clean water, clean food, and clean air should be their birthright. And climate change MUST be contained.
End Prohibition of Cannabis ⌄
The war on drugs has failed—costing Minnesota taxpayers too much and destroying too many lives. It’s time to remove the prohibition on personal use of cannabis and treat addiction as an illness, not a crime.
Cannabis is not harmless, but prohibition of cannabis has not worked and has also caused many unintended, harmful consequences. It has been estimated that Minnesotans spend perhaps $700 million per year on illegal cannabis, which they buy without knowing the dose or purity of what they buy. Cannabis prohibition also contributes to racial disparities in our state as it fills expensive prison beds with people who do not belong there. Without prohibition we could do a better job keeping cannabis away from children and educating our population on how to use it responsibly and with regard to the rights of others.
Minnesotans should have the opportunity to decide whether to legalize personal use of cannabis under a careful system of regulation and taxation. Law enforcement should have a voice on drug policy, but never a veto.
Among the states, Minnesota ranks low for incarcerated felons per capita. Still, too many inmates have substance abuse disorder or other mental health issues that would be better treated in another setting. Treatment courts are a step in the right direction, and we must encourage and fund these initiatives. We also need to make sure that people who have been through the justice system can find a path back to a productive life. Lack of housing, lack of needed treatment, and lack of employment are barriers to reentry that must be addressed.