When lawmakers return to the State Capitol next week for the legislative session, Education MInnesota President Denise Specht is calling on them to focus on the well-being of the state's school workers and students. She says Minnesota is third-worst in the country for student-teacher ratios... "That is not anything to be proud of. We've got a historic surplus that we could be earmarking for hiring counselors, for lowering class sizes for reducing caseloads, our children need one on one individualized instruction right now and this surplus certainly could make a dent in that." Specht is referring to the state's $7.7 billion [...]
Gas prices continue to rise across Minnesota. Patrick De Haan with Gas Buddy says early in the pandemic oil prices plummeted, demand crashed, resulting in oil companies cutting production: "But in the last year demand has come roaring back much faster than supply has and that in balance has pushed up the price of oil." De Haan says a gallon of unleaded gas rose nearly four cents last week, averaging $3.16 a gallon: "We are stuck with these high prices and that's why we expect that this trend would continue into the first half of the new year until production starts [...]
The Minnesota Department of Revenue is now accepting income tax returns: "Which is the same day the IRS will open. And the filing deadline this year is Monday, April 18th, 2022." Assistant Revenue Commissioner Sarah Bronson says right now 90-percent of Minnesotans file electronically.
At the beginning of the COVID 19 pandemic, from February through April of 2020, Minnesota lost 416,300 jobs. DEED Commissioner Steve Grove says the bright news is: "We've now gained back about 74-percent of those jobs. About 307,400 of them and in the private sector we gained back about 77 percent of those jobs. We have to keep moving forward though and hiring and making an environment here in Minnesota where growth is possible." Minnesota's unemployment rate sits at 3.1 percent the lowest level since 2019.
"It's been a heck of two years, and we're still in the thick of it as we start 2022." Allison O'Toole CEO of Second Harvest Heartland the state's largest food bank says all signs are pointing to another challenging year as the COVID-19 pandemic continues: "Food shelf visits continue to be 30-percent more than they were pre-pandemic. Our SNAP outreach line has an increase of about 54-percent, it continues." O'Toole says supply chain issues continue, causing consumer prices to go up.
COVID-19 complications are now blamed for the deaths of 12 school workers in Minnesota. The latest data includes one more school staff fatality, bringing the death toll to 20 since August 2020. Education Minnesota President Denise Specht (speck) says she understands the value of private health information but adds... "It would be wonderful if the Department of Health could release some information that would help us get a better sense of what's going wrong...how can we do this better." Three Minnesota students have also died from the coronavirus. More than 500 students and staff have been hospitalized with COVID.
U-S Senator Tina Smith is sponsoring a bill to increase the retention of public health and social service workers. The bipartisan legislation would provide college loan forgiveness for those who stay in public health or social service jobs for a specific period of time. "A lot of the problem is these folks have been retiring leaving the field. This was happening before COVID but COVID has made it much, much worse. People are so burned out and exhausted and just leaving." If the bill is signed into law, Smith says it would also apply to public health workers already working in [...]
House DFLers this week laid out their proposal for a one-billion-dollar investment this session to help take action on the impacts of climate change in Minnesota. House Speaker Melissa Hortman says... "Climate change is one of the biggest threats to Minnesota's future we know that it threatens our crops in the future, our wildlife, our lakes and our rivers and in threatening all those things, it also threatens our people." Part of the package would invest $105 million in clean energy initiatives, $45 million to fund a Greater Minnesota Renewable Development Account and $30 million to establish a Minnesota Innovation Finance [...]
The state legislative session begins one week from today. Lawmakers have to prioritize spending with a record $7.7 billion budget surplus and Carleton College political science professor Steven Schier says... "The Republican-dominated Senate and the Democratic-dominated House are going to have very different priorities about that and there should be a lot of battles and it's not clear what the outcome will be." Schier says redistricting will also have a significant impact on whether lawmakers will run for re-election or not. Already more than a dozen lawmakers have announced they intend to step down after the upcoming legislative session.
Education Minnesota President Denise Specht is calling on state lawmakers to prioritize the well-being of students and staff when the session begins next week. Specht says the pandemic has wreaked havoc on schools and the mental health of students... "I absolutely believe if we do not concentrate on getting more staff into our buildings, you know the time is right, we have this huge surplus, we could be hiring more counselors right now." Specht says Minnesota is third-worst in the country for student-teacher ratios. She says that's not anything to be proud of.