Every 10 years, after the census, legislative district lines are redrawn. For me, that was the appropriate time to announce I would not seek re-election. I will serve one more year – and one more session - to continue to deliver on my priorities: transportation and housing.
Transportation is the sector contributing most to climate change, with impacts primarily from cars and planes, leading me to continue my long effort to build a robust public transit system. It has also motivated me to work harder with advocacy groups on building a network of inter-city passenger rail.
As chair the House Housing Finance and Policy committee, I will spend most of my time on the effort to create and maintain affordable, available housing for all Minnesotans. I was grateful to be able to be part of a major effort from 2012 to 2014 to turn around the state funding effort for housing. Before 2012, we would allocate perhaps $2 million in general obligation bonding for public housing, which did not nearly meet the statewide needs. I encouraged housing advocates to work together. They built massive statewide support to form the Homes for All Coalition and now meet in the interim to discuss a strategy for creating and accomplishing a joint agenda.
One other change occurred. General obligation (GO) bonding can only be used for public infrastructure. I met with a representative from Minnesota Housing, who requested to use their agency bonding authority for housing infrastructure bonds (HIB). Using appropriation bonds, they could work with non-profits and leverage private dollars. This very valuable tool has allowed the state to partner with non-profits like Lutheran Social Services, Catholic Charities, Common Bond, Beacon, and Aeon. Creative and valuable projects have been funded through the HIB bonds, leveraging considerable private funding.
2014 was the turnaround year. The legislature funded $80 million in HIB bonds and $20 million in GO bonding for public housing. Though we continued to invest strongly in HIB bonds, regrettably, we went backward in public housing funding. In 2014 we appropriated $20 million but in 2020 only $16 million. One of my goals in 2022 will be to make a significant change in the funding level.
A supplemental budget bill in the 2022 session could help correct a persistent housing funding shortage. The housing crisis is nothing new - and we have made progress - but we must be much more aggressive to make a dent in this emergency. Nothing else in life goes well without a safe place to sleep at night, and we can’t continue to just temporarily shelter people. Shelters save lives. Housing ends homelessness. Permanent supportive housing is our goal.
Our divided legislature has stunted our tenant protection efforts. Forty-eight states have a requirement for a notice of eviction. Minnesota is one of only two who do not. A notice of eviction allows the tenant to look for funding or new housing. No notice may mean homelessness. During the eviction moratorium this year, we negotiated a temporary notice of eviction, but this respite expired in October. My goal is to accomplish a permanent ‘notice to evict’ during the 2022 session.
Finally, the federal government passed a bipartisan infrastructure bill, requiring a state/local match. To assure the projected surplus is available to accomplish the other good things Minnesotans want, we must assure a match for every dollar of federal funding. The MnDOT portion alone will require $185 million per year for five years. When we know the amount and timeline and whether it requires legislative authorization, we should pass as a separate bill immediately and not save it for a last-minute deal linking everything together - risking passage.
We must also be clear Minnesota has a PROJECTED surplus. Many factors weigh into final budget numbers, so we cannot spend money that isn’t in the bank.
My time in the legislature has been filled with challenges, success, and opportunity. We cannot accomplish anything alone but can achieve great things working together. I appreciate the support and confidence shown by my constituents. I look forward to next session and to the future and am assured our state will remain in capable hands when my tenure ends.
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