During this unprecedented time of concern over COVID19, I would like to recognize those on the frontlines who are working in the medical industry as well as firefighters, law-enforcement, school personnel and childcare workers.
We all need to do our part by practicing social distancing, hand washing and protecting the most vulnerable among us, but we also need to realize that shutting down 25 percent of Minnesota’s private economy will bring severe revenue problems in the future, especially with almost 500,000 Minnesotans filing for unemployment.
We must be proactive by addressing non-critical state spending now. Here are just a few areas that the Legislature should consider immediately:
• First, the state could suspend construction on the South West Light Rail project, which is costing the state over $140 million per mile, and use that savings to fight COVID19.
• The state should temporarily suspend the prevailing wage law, which according to the Minnesota Chamber of Commerce is the fourth highest in the nation and increases the cost of all state subsidized projects by about 20 percent.
• We should suspend all “green new-deal” laws and regulations which artificially inflate energy costs on our businesses and citizens unnecessarily.
• The governor should also immediately suspend the sanctuary city status of Minneapolis and St. Paul, which acts as a magnet to draw in illegal immigrants, crime, and public health issues, driving up the cost of state government expenditures. We need to care about Minnesota citizens first.
This is just a short list of the numerous things that could be done to rein in government spending and still meet the needs of Minnesota citizens.
I also believe we should reconsider and discuss the “essential” versus “nonessential” business model that has been used to determine which businesses can remain open. This model has serious inconsistencies and inequities expressed by many business owners.
For example, under the Governor’s original executive order, many contractors who generally work alone or outside by themselves had been considered nonessential so were restrained from working.
Florists are also considered non-essential, even though many are sole proprietorships.
A business owned by a couple, with no other employees, was considered nonessential under the Governor’s order, even though the owners live together.
Instead, we should use a model that is based on the CDC recommendations which stresses behaviors that are “safe” versus those that are “unsafe”, because the word “essential” is a subjective measure depending on each person’s perspective.
Changing this approach would allow ALL small businesses to be essential and at least operate at a minimum level, and allow them a better opportunity to survive.
Last Tuesday, House Republicans forced the first vote since the COVID-19 crisis began to end Governor Walz’s peacetime emergency powers and begin the process of safely reopening Minnesota’s economy by continuing social distancing and prioritizing health and safety, especially for the most vulnerable Minnesotans.
While I voted in support of the resolution, it ultimately failed due to Democrat opposition. The reality is that the Governor’s emergency powers will likely not end until the Democrat majority in the House believes that a change is needed. Even with every Republican supporting the resolution, we simply do not have the votes to end it.
Please contact the Governor at 651-201-3400 and tell him to end his emergency powers immediately. We can do this safely and still keep our economy and small businesses going.
Remember we are Minnesotans and by God’s grace we will get through this, but we need a strategy to address the public health problem without crippling our private economy.
Rep. Glenn Gruenhagen