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Hansen: Bipartisan Successes, But Challenges Remain

Several important pieces of legislation were passed with bipartisan support, but several 'bread and butter' issues remain unresolved, writes author.

Editor's Note: Rick Hansen represents District 39A in the Minnesota House of Representatives. 

Thank you to all citizens who contacted me during the 2012 Legislative Session. The session has adjourned, bringing an end to the 2011-2012 legislative biennium. It’s important to look at the big picture over the past two years. The two years were marked by a tough economy and a public desire for progress.

One of the bright spots this session was the passage of a $500 million bonding bill with strong bipartisan support. I came here with a goal of job creation and this bill will create jobs. Public infrastructure across our entire state is crumbling and the bonding bill will start work on our huge backlog of worthwhile projects. State investment in infrastructure is crucial for economic growth, both now and for the future.

Beyond infrastructure, the bill contains $35.5 million in funding for affordable housing. $30 million is authorized for foreclosure remediation, and supportive housing, with another $5.5 million for public housing rehabilitation. Finally, the bill contains $2 million for the Harriet Tubman Center, which offers support services for women, children, and families struggling with domestic violence, substance abuse and mental health issues.

We also passed the most broadly bipartisan Health and Human Services (HHS) bill I’ve seen in my time at the legislature. Last year’s government shutdown resulted in a budget—which I did not vote for—with a number of devastating cuts to Health and Human Services, including a 20 percent cut to Personal Care Assistants caring for a relative. Last year’s budget also cut Emergency Medical Assistance, which delivered life-saving medical services like kidney dialysis and chemotherapy. Fortunately, after a lot of bipartisan work, we restored needed services to people with this year’s HHS bill.

Finally, we also passed bipartisan legislation that makes the intentional abuse and neglect of vulnerable adults a felony crime and toughens criminal penalties on those who use restraints to abuse and harm children. We truly can accomplish a lot when the legislature works together for the common good of our state.

Unfortunately, we still have work left to do. Our state ends the session with massive debt and deficits (the same way we entered it), a struggling economy, skyrocketing property taxes, and a shrinking middle class.

 Last year, an unwillingness to compromise led to the longest government shutdown in state history. The final budget—which I did not support—borrowed record amounts from our school children, eliminated the Homestead Tax Credit, and, for the first time ever, engaged our state in bogus financing through the use of tobacco bonds. This occurred all while protecting tax breaks for the well-off and the well-connected.

Looking forward, it is clear we must do a better job addressing the bread and butter issues vital to a successful future in Minnesota. We have ended another session without focusing on the issues that truly matter to Minnesotans.

My priority will continue to be working to build a prosperous Minnesota where all of us have the opportunity to succeed, not just the well-off and well-connected. We will be a stronger Minnesota when we confront our challenges head on, invest in a world class education system, and put the interest of Minnesotans first.

Rick Hansen

State Representative

District 39A

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