WASHINGTON, D.C. [12/18/19]—As Congress sends its final budget agreement for 2020 to the President’s desk, Minnesotans will benefit from several bipartisan measures U.S. Senator Tina Smith (D-Minn.) authored and championed.
Sen. Smith’s bipartisan efforts to address health care costs and skyrocketing prescription drug prices, support rural housing, ramp up clean energy, expand disaster relief to hard-hit farmers and preserve electric cooperatives’ tax-exempt status while expanding much-needed broadband services in rural communities were all included in the final budget package expected to be signed into law in the coming days.
“Here we are at the end of the year, and I’m glad I was able to get a lot of the bipartisan efforts I’ve been working on across the finish line to help Minnesotans,” said Sen. Smith. “The government spending package includes measures focused on the issues I talk about with people from across the state—lowering prescription drug prices, expanding affordable housing and broadband, supporting the economy and bolstering education programs. This shows that Congress can come together from both sides of the aisle and do what’s right to move Minnesota and our nation forward, and create opportunity for American families.”
The government spending package includes several of Sen. Smith’s top Senate priorities:
Lowering Prescription Drug Prices and Health Care
·Patients should be able to afford the medication they need to live, and Sen. Smith is glad her bipartisan bill—introduced with Republican Senator Bill Cassidy of Louisiana—to bring more low-cost insulin products to market and lower the price of insulin is included in the budget agreement.
·Sen. Smith also supported a bipartisan bill that would prevent brand-name companies from using anti-competitive tactics to keep low-cost generic products off the market.
·With the number of Lyme disease cases on the rise, Sen. Smith worked with Republican Senator Susan Collins of Maine to include their bill that would improve research, prevention, diagnostics, and treatment for vector-borne diseases, which are spread by ticks, mosquitoes and fleas.
·Certified Community Behavioral Health Centers (CCBHCs) have transformed mental health care for communities in Minnesota, and Sen. Smith fought to extend federal funding for these centers.
Expanding Affordable Housing
·After hearing from Minnesotans during her office’s affordable housing listening sessions, Sen. Smith led a bipartisan effort with Senator Mike Rounds (R-S.D.) to get federal agencies’ rental assistance programs in line with one another. Their amendment would make it easier for rural property owners to take advantage of both U.S. Department of Agriculture rental assistance and Low Income Housing Tax Credits.
·Sen. Smith also hears a lot from Minnesotans about the need for affordable housing in rural areas, and how the federal government isn’t living up to its commitment to maintain rural properties. Sen. Smith worked with Senator Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) to make sure that the Department of Agriculture prioritizes maintenance and repairs so that rural families can have a safe, affordable place to live.
Creating Opportunity and Supporting the Economy
·When Sen. Smith heard that Minnesota cooperatives were at risk of losing their tax-exempt status if they received grants to expand broadband or recover from a disaster, she wanted to reverse that. The key government spending package includes her bipartisan bill with Senator Rob Portman (R-Ohio) that would ensure co-ops can retain their tax exemptions when they receive government grants.
·Sen. Smith fought to extend the Biodiesel Tax Credit, which is vitally important for Minnesota.
·Sen. Smith is focused on working with both parties to get things done to support economic growth in Minnesota. That’s why she introduced a bipartisan measure to extend the Terrorism Risk Insurance Program with Senator Thom Tillis (R-N.C.). The Terrorism Risk Insurance Act (TRIA) is vital to Minnesota institutions because having access to affordable insurance for terrorism-related risks makes it possible for businesses to be able to grow and create jobs.
She also supported a pay raise for members of the military—the largest raise in a decade—because she understands that this is the right thing for the women and men who serve our country.
Supporting Education for Minnesotans and Families Nationwide
- Parents and families need help affording childcare, and Sen. Smith led on pushing to invest in important programs like Head Start and the Child Care & Development Block Grant. Sen. Smith is glad this funding legislation provides record investments in early learning programs and childcare because these investments help parents and kids and garner pay-offs for years to come.
- Sen. Smith hears from educators, administrators and parents who are concerned about how school budgets in Minnesota are being squeezed by the federal government not holding up its end of the bargain to fully fund special education. The funding deal increases federal funding for special education to support high-quality early education and interventions for young children with disabilities and help states and districts cover the costs of special education.
- Minnesota college students struggle with the high cost of textbooks and sometimes forgo needed materials. Sen. Smith fought to fund grants for Open Textbooks. Minnesota State has been a leader in this area, and it is Sen. Smith’s hope that with the additional investment from this deal, more students and institutions will be able to benefit. These efforts will help save students money and ultimately help bring down the amount of student loan debt that young people graduate with.