Sen. Smith fought for a spot on the Senate Agriculture Committee because ag is the backbone of Minnesota's economy.
All Minnesotans are impacted by the Farm Bill, and Sen. Smith heard from Minnesotans with backgrounds in farming, rural development, rural health, and nutrition to make sure that all voices were reflected in the final 5-year bill that passed in 2018. That legislation included many provisions that Sen. Smith authored and championed, including improvement to the dairy safety-net program, the legislative roadmap for the energy title, and improvement to USDA conservation programs. It also included many provisions that benefit Minnesota's native communities and new American communities, like permanent funding for beginning and traditionally under-served farmer outreach programs.
Sen. Smith understands that it's been a very difficult few years for agriculture, and she believes that the federal government should be giving farmers more support. She's heard from farmers about the high cost of health care, including access to health care providers and access to mental health care resources, which is why Senator Smith championed the creation of the rural health liaison at the USDA as well as funding for local mental health resources and to expand access to stress reduction and suicide prevention programs.
She also believes it's important to invest more in Greater Minnesota, and from her leadership post on the Rural Development and Energy Subcommittee, will keep working to expand access to broadband and better infrastructure.
Thousands of Minnesotans are employed in the ethanol and biodiesel industry, selling corn and soybeans to biofuel facilities boosts the incomes of farmers around the state. Biofuels are good for energy security, for our environment, and for our economy, which is why Sen. Smith will advocate for a strong Renewable Fuel Standards (RFS) program.
Senator Smith believes that a strong public education system, from early childhood to higher education, is one of the most important investments we can make, because education has the power to change lives. A high-quality education empowers and creates opportunity, allowing people to reach their full potential, support their families with good-paying jobs, and become well informed and engaged citizens.
Education provides a strong foundation for our economy and our communities, and it starts with the littlest kids and learners. Senator Smith has worked in response to the childcare shortages in Minnesota, she's a proud supporter of legislation to provide high-quality affordable childcare to all parents, to support childcare providers, and boost supply in Minnesota.
Sen. Smith believes that every young person has a right to a high-quality K-12 education. She's introduced legislation to address teacher shortages, particularly in rural areas, hard to staff subject areas, and to help improve teacher workforce diversity. She's heard again and again from teachers about the challenges their students are facing and so she has championed several measures to support student mental health needs and well-being. When it comes to higher education, Sen. Smith believes that college has become unaffordable for too many. She finds it troubling that the average debt for students graduating from a four-year college in Minnesota is $31,000. She believes we need to rethink this system because it's not fair to students, and it's getting so that it is even slowing down our economy.
But Senator Smith also understands that 'higher education' doesn't always mean a 4-year degree. Sen. Smith strongly believes that we need to increase our investments in two-year community and technical colleges, and workforce education overall to ensure that students are well-prepared to meet workforce needs. This type of education will help students obtain the in-demand skills that will help them land good-paying jobs that employers are hiring for now, not in the distant future.
Sen. Smith is also committed to addressing the opportunity gaps that prevent too many students from reaching their full potential. She believes that means ensuring that every student, from LGBTQ youth, to those struggling with a challenging home life, mental health issues, or immigrant Minnesotans' has the support they need to succeed.
Finally, Sen. Smith understands that outside the classroom our kids are facing many barriers and she strongly supports reforming and expanding the Child Tax Credit to invest in children and reduce child poverty in Minnesota and across the nation.
The emerging clean energy economy supports thousands of good-paying jobs in Minnesota and around the country. And wind, solar, and biofuels are helping to reduce carbon emissions, lower energy bills, and support rural economies. As a member of the Senate Agriculture Committee, Sen. Smith wrote the legislative framework for the Farm Bill Energy Title, and has introduced legislation to support energy storage innovation. Sen. Smith believes that clean energy is a win-win for Minnesota and is committed to fighting for federal policies that support these innovative technologies.
Minnesota has long been a leader in renewable energy. The state ranks eighth in the nation for clean-energy patents, and in the last decade, clean energy startups have attracted more than $450 million in investments to Minnesota. Today, renewable energy accounts for a quarter of all electricity generated in Minnesota--the state is ranked fifth in the nation for solar installations, and nearly 20 percent of our electricity now comes from wind power. Meanwhile, Minnesota's biofuel industry generates nearly $5 billion for the state economy every year and supports thousands of jobs, all while producing a fuel that is more environmentally friendly than fossil fuels and reducing our dependence on foreign oil.
Sen. Smith believes that clean energy isn't just smart environmental policy, it's smart economic policy. In Minnesota, clean energy sector jobs are growing twice as fast as jobs in other parts of the economy, which is why Sen. Smith is pushing the federal government to follow Minnesota's lead and do more to accelerate the clean energy transition. She believes we should do this through national clean energy targets, by funding more clean energy research, by extending tax credits that incentivize clean and renewable energy, and by supporting biofuels. You can count on Sen. Smith to continue fighting for these policies in the Senate.
Minnesota—in protecting freshwater resources and leading the way in creating a clean energy economy—has always been at the forefront of crafting responsible environmental policy. And as a member of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, Sen. Smith carries this spirit to Washington and continues to fight for federal policies that seek to combat climate change, preserve clean air and clean water, and protect our most precious natural landscapes.
Despite the great work being done in states like Minnesota, environmental challenges persist every day. Terrible accidents like the Flint water crisis where cost-cutting measures led to dangerous levels of lead in Michigan homes, and sweeping challenges like climate change, make clear that the federal government has an important role to play in protecting our environment. Ignoring this responsibility would put our natural treasures, our public health, and even our economy at risk.
Part of this responsibility means fighting back against efforts to rollback responsible environmental policy. Decisions like pulling out of the Paris Agreement, a landmark international agreement to address climate change, and undermining a plan to reduce air pollution are both outdated and out of touch with what most Americans want. Sen. Smith will fight back against policies that threaten our environment and our public health, but she stands ready work with her colleagues on both sides of the aisle to make sure our environmental policies work better for Minnesotans and all Americans.
Senator Smith believes that every person deserves affordable, high-quality health care. As a member of the Senate Health Committee and a leader in the bipartisan Rural Health Caucus, Sen. Smith is fighting to protect, improve, and expand comprehensive health care coverage for Minnesotans.
A top priority for Sen. Smith is addressing the high cost of health care. Too many Minnesotans are burdened by the high cost of their health care coverage, and others are going without insurance or prescription medications. Sen. Smith is working with her colleagues on both sides of the aisle to address the underlying issues that make health care expensive, starting with the high price of prescription drugs.
While working to make health care more affordable, Sen. Smith is also working to ensure that every Minnesotan has access to mental health care, which she believes is an essential part of comprehensive health coverage. She is working to enforce federal laws that require equitable coverage of mental health and medical care, and she is fighting for expanded access to mental health services across the age continuum.
Sen. Smith also opposes any efforts to limit coverage for Minnesotans, slash Medicaid or Medicare, deny coverage to people with preexisting conditions, and interfere with a woman's right to make decisions about her own health care. Minnesotans and people across this country rely on their health coverage, and believes that any attempt to take that away is unacceptable.
Finally, Sen. Smith is a champion for rural communities, who face unique barriers that limit their access to quality, affordable health care. As co-chair of the bipartisan Rural Health Caucus, Sen. Smith is working with her colleagues to eliminate the health disparities between rural and urban communities.
Sen. Smith is proud to represent and advocate for the seven Ojibwe tribes, the four Dakota tribes, and the vibrant urban indigenous community in Minnesota.
When Senator Smith first joined the Senate, she asked to serve on the Indian Affairs Committee because she's heard time and time again from leaders in Indian Country who are frustrated that policy decisions are being made without bringing tribes to the table. There are tremendous needs in Indian Country, and Sen. Smith understands that leaders in Indian Country often have answers for how the federal government can step up and fulfill its trust responsibility to tribal communities.
Sen. Smith wants to make sure programs in Indian Country or that directly impact tribes from energy and economy development to health and education are adequately supported. She believes we need to address the effects of the opioid crisis on tribal communities, especially on mothers and children. We need to address the lack of housing in Indian Country, which makes it harder to attract teachers, law enforcement officers, and health care workers that reservations need.
Sen. Smith believes we also need to give tribes the tools to develop their workforce and attract business and investment, while also investing in basic infrastructure like roads and broadband.
Senator Smith is committed to fighting for more jobs and building a stronger economy, one that works for everyone so businesses grow and workers get better jobs with better pay, and so we can invest in infrastructure and manufacturing. Sen. Smith wants to address college affordability and expand career and workforce training for young people who don't go to a four-year college.
Despite the fact that the economy is rebounding, too many Minnesota families struggle to make ends meet, face a job loss, or grapple with a shrinking pay check. Sen. Smith believes that in order to build an economy that works for everyone, we need a fairer tax code that supports working families, not just the wealthiest of Americans. We need paid family and medical leave for workers so that parents can stay home to take care of a newborn or a sick a family member without losing a paycheck. We need to pass the Paycheck Fairness Act to close the pay gap between men and women. We need fair trade policies that help Minnesota workers, businesses, and farmers get ahead, and we need to crack down on foreign countries that break international trade rules and put American workers out of jobs. We need to hold Wall Street accountable and make sure they don't cause another economic collapse. We need to invest in small businesses and support entrepreneurs. And we need to help foster the next generation of Minnesota innovators by investing in research and development.
As a member of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee, Sen. Smith will build on Minnesota's proud history of invention and creativity by supporting our classrooms, students, and our workforce. And, as a member of the Senate Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs Committee, Sen. Smith will be standing up for consumers, working to ensure fair access to financial services for all Americans, and working to improve the availability of safe, decent, and affordable housing.
Minnesota has a proud tradition of being at the forefront of helping to defend our national security. Elements of the Minnesota National Guard led the Allied invasion forces in North Africa and Italy during World War II, they dutifully protected our northern border during the Cold War, and they have been called upon time and again in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan to provide warfighting support, medical evacuation, and transportation. Sen. Smith will carry this spirit of leadership and fight for principled national security policies that prudently employ our investments in personnel, technology, and partnerships with our allies for the benefits of our nation.
The U.S. military is the best in the world. However, as the recently released National Defense Review highlighted, the number of threats to our national security is growing. Terrorism, great power competition, and nuclear proliferation will not be easy national security challenges but the way forward is clear. We must continue to invest in personnel, technology, and the partnerships that have been so successful at ensuring our security.
It is also important to recognize that our national security is best served when the military is not our only tool. We must also make effective use of diplomacy and development. Diplomacy is essential if we are going to solve tough security challenges from the Middle East to China and North Korea – without dangerous military conflict. And fostering development is not only good for the communities where it happens – it is good for the U.S. because it promotes stability and prosperity and fosters alliances.
The men and women who have honorably served our nation in uniform deserve our utmost respect, and when they return home we need to make sure our veterans get the benefits and care they earned. Sen. Tina Smith believes this includes ensuring they’re able to pursue higher education, find housing and good jobs, and helping them heal from the wounds of war and access health care. It also means making sure veterans receive quality, timely care, and that we actively seek out legislative fixes when we find gaps in the law that prevent them from receiving the benefits they’ve justly earned.
In order to do this, Sen. Smith encourages you to reach out to her when you hear about a veteran who needs assistance. Whether it be helping to connect them to services, advocating on their behalf, or working to fix a legislative issues, Sen. Smith is here to help.