Priorities for Minnesota

As a life-long Democrat, I have always supported our party's platform, especially its commitment to giving a voice to the concerns of all Americans. My priorities are to keep the Minnesota and Duluth economic recovery alive and expand it to include everyone, not just the top 1%. Minnesota needs to provide affordable and effective health care for everyone and make higher education available to all Minnesota children. Other priorities include protecting our environment, funding transportation, and addressing racial economic disparities.

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I earned a PhD in Economics and Health Policy from the University of Minnesota. Now, I teach economics, finance and health policy at the University of Minnesota Duluth and serve as the Director of the Health Care Management program. My knowledge and resources equip me to be a strong advocate for Duluthians and Minnesotans.

I have studied our health care system for 20 years, advocated for reform in our community and worked with legislators to address health care access and affordability. I know what is broken and I know how to fix it. Health care should not bankrupt families, our state or country. Health care is a critical issue for families, and Minnesota must get this right.

In addition to my leadership on health care, I will be a strong voice for adequate funding for public schools, environmental protection, addressing economic disparities, and funding transportation.

Health Care Reform

As an economist specializing in health care issues, for the last 20 years health care has been both a passion and a profession for me. I have met repeatedly with our DFL representatives to discuss health care policy issues, and have participated in panel discussions, presentations, and meetings in our community to work for health care reform. I served on Governor Dayton's Health Care Finance Task Force in 2015-16, a bipartisan group of 29 individuals. The task force agreed on 33 recommendations for the legislature to pursue to reform health care in Minneosta.

Minnesota can be a leader in Health Care Reform.

While listening to voters I have learned that health care is an important issue to many people, not just myself. Like many of us, I would like to see a single payer system in both the U.S. and in Minnesota. However, so far we have been unable to get the votes in congress or the legislature to pass single payer. In the meantime, I believe strongly that we need to continue work to deal with the problems in health care. I was a strong supporter of the Affordable Care Act (ACA)-- Obamacare -- and am very happy with its success in providing health insurance for 14 million Americans and 400,000 of Minnesotans. MNsure, our state health insurance exchange, has the lowest premiums in the country and has reduced the number of uninsured by 40%. I am a strong advocate for the MinnesotaCare buy-in program which will increase access to affordable health insurance. 

Obamacare was never intended to be a finished product. The upcoming election is critical for health care reform. Legislators in the 2019 session will need to pass legislation in order to apply federal waivers to introduce significant reform in Minnesota. I would certainly advocate for and vote to support single payer, but if it does not pass, there are other ideas that should be implemented and evaluated.

One idea is to pursue offering a public option on MNsure that enrolls state employees, and possibly other large groups, such as University of Minnesota employees and educators. This option could evolve into a single-payer system as the pool of enrollees grows over time. 

To control the growth of health care spending and to eliminate price discrimination, I would advocate for different forms of payments to health service organizations, such as payments based on actual costs, capitation and global budgeting. These payment methods are practiced successfully outside the U.S. and can be structured to reward the use of services scientifically proven to improve patient care while lowering costs. These savings, along with substantial administrative savings, can be used to fund affordable health care for all Minnesotans.

It is easy to get lost in the technicalities of health care and our struggles with the GOP, but I never lose sight of the fact that in the end this is about real people facing some of the hardest and most terrifying experiences of their lives and having to fight to be able to afford or even to obtain the care they and their children need. As DFLers, we need to be in their corner fighting to make health care available, affordable, and excellent in Minnesota.

 Health care should not bankrupt families in our state or our nation.

I strongly support the DFL principle that quality health care is a right for all Americans. In St. Paul I offer tools, knowledge and passion to fix our broken health care system.  

Economic Inequality

I was raised by a single mother, started working at age 16 earning a minimum wage or less and managed to pay my way through public universities. I saw my mother struggle to support two daughters, pay bills and put food on the table. I ate plenty of peanut butter sandwiches as a youth and remember skipping meals as a graduate student because I had only pennies in my pocket.

Working families are the engines of our economy.

Today the working poor are struggling. Students cannot earn enough by working to cover the cost of college. Working families’ real wages are falling as they pay more for health care and other living expenses. We need to address these problems and the serious problem of growing economic inequality. I want to work on legislation that creates an economy that works for all of us, not just the 1% that owns 40% of all wealth, while 80% of the population owns only 7% of all wealth. Working families spend their hard earned dollars, contribute to economic growth and help all of us. We need to help them improve their economic condition.

Anyone who works full time (or even more) should be able to afford decent housing, transportation, food, clothing, and health care. Raising the state minimum wage and indexing it to inflation is an important step to ensure this. The current minimum wage does not cover basic necessities. As an economist I know real world economic data shows that increasing the minimum wage actually helps state economies by pumping money into the marketplace, creating new revenue for businesses and creating new jobs.

I also advocate for tax reform initiatives to help working families and small businesses. As a legislator I support paid safe and sick time, paid family leave, and increasing MFIP. In the 2016 legislative session, we increased the working family tax credit, created tax credits for student loan debt and tax breaks for college savings accounts (529 plans). 

According to many economic indicators our economy in Minnesota is very healthy. We have low unemployment, high productivity growth, a budget surplus, job growth and an increase in young professionals moving to our great state and city.  Minnesota is rated in the top 10 by Forbes and CNBC in terms of our business climate and we have higher take-home pay (after taxes) than the national average. We need to keep moving forward by investing in education and infrastructure to attract businesses to Minnesota.

Educational Issues

I was fortunate to attend excellent public schools with strong curricula and teachers dedicated to educating students. I credit much of my success to educators who developed my skills and provided professional and personal advice that has helped me negotiate life.

Minnesota can be the nation's leader in education.

As a legislator I will fight for public education. For Pre-K--12, I will work with representatives of the MN Department of Education, MN School Districts, teacher unions, federal legislators, law enforcement and community organizations to create legislation and initiatives to:

  • Secure adequate funding for pre-K education, so children are not disadvantaged when they enter Kindergarten, and for K-12 to reduce class size and hire qualified teachers.

  • Change the funding model, so students in property-poor school districts are not disadvantaged relative to students in wealthier districts.

  • Gain increased federal funding of the federal mandate for special education.

  • Provide funding and incentives for districts to partner with local agencies to reduce truancy, to create diversion programs, to reduce homelessness and to solve problems created by movement of families during the school year, with the aim of keeping kids in school.

  • Identify ways to move from an emphasis on student testing to alternative measures of achievement and growth.

  • Fund safe-school policies, to reduce bullying and to foster an inclusive environment.

  • Increase funding for social workers and counselors in schools throughout the state.

  • Identify best-practice models for eliminating the achievement gap and increasing the graduation rate.

  • Secure funding to cover the cost of consolidating teacher retirement funds.

In 2016, the legislature appropriated $25 million for pre-k education, but we have more work to do. Similar to K-12, higher education has seen substantial reductions in state contributions. This reduction has led to significant increases in tuition. Today, Minnesota students graduate with an average debt of $29,793. Students and families in Minnesota pay 68% of the cost of higher education, one of the highest burdens in the nation. I was able to cover public college tuition with a need-based scholarship, financial aid, a federal Perkins loan and part-time jobs. This would not be possible today.

I will be a strong voice for public higher education by advocating for:

  • Lowering growth rates in tuition.

  • Ensuring fair distributions of state allocations.

  • Upholding a Minnesota statute that states that the Legislature intends to provide two-thirds of the cost of higher education at UMN and MNSCU—making students responsible for only one-third through tuition.

The promise of America is that every child will have the opportunity to grow up to live a successful life. That promise is meaningless unless every child in our community can go to a quality public school. I won't give up on the American Dream for any of our children.