Last month Growth & Justice offered ideas and policy recommendations from our Minnesota Rural Equity Project at a listening session in Norwood Young America, one of 14 stops in a statewide tour conducted by the Minnesota Farmers Union. The MFU’s report from their tour, “What Do Rural People Think,” was issued last week and earned favorable media coverage. The report’s bottom line aligns with many of our policy priorities for revitalizing rural economies and providing more opportunity for low- and middle-income Minnesotans. From the Star Tribune: “Cheaper health care, better access to high-speed internet, and more funding for rural highways top the wish lists of farmers around the state.” Also high on the list: better “listening” from metro leaders, more attention to rural hunger, and support for renewable energy development.
Research shows that “Americans as a whole are ‘moving to stagnation,’ voluntarily accepting lower pay in lower-productivity places in order to avoid the bite of housing costs,” reports Matthew Yglesias in a Vox commentary, based on a study by economist Jed Kolko. While economic opportunities are becoming more concentrated in affluent metro areas (such as the Twin Cities), Americans’ ability to move to take advantage of that opportunity is declining. Growth & Justice Policy Fellow Louis Johnston, an economist at the College of St. Benedict/St. John’s University, drew our attention to this research and told us that “part of the rural/urban divide is driven by the inability of people to move and take advantage of wage/income differentials.” The Vox article recommends policies that improve mass transit and provide much more affordable housing in high-growth urban areas. Another complementary option, as we contend in our Minnesota Rural Equity Project, is public investment in Greater Minnesota’s infrastructure and human capital, to improve its economic competitiveness and to reduce those differentials.
Business leaders in Minnesota are lining up strongly behind Gov. Dayton’s positions on transit and transportation bills and against House and Senate proposals to dramatically cut transit investment. Both the Minneapolis Regional Chamber of Commerce and the St. Paul Area Chamber of Commerce held informational and organizing sessions this week to oppose a proposed 40 percent cut in transit services. We urge you to join this effort by linking to the webpage www.stoptransitcuts.com. Many other communities statewide, led by Transportation Forward and Transit for Livable Communities, are opposing the cuts and also pressing for expansion of transit options, in metro as well as Greater Minnesota, according to a Star Tribune round-up of transit advocacy efforts. The Center for Rural Policy & Development earlier this year produced a compelling analysis of growing demands for rural transit and mobility.
Few policy initiatives enjoy broader statewide and bipartisan support than investments in early childhood development, from nurse home visiting programs, to scholarships for high-quality education in the earliest years, to expansion of public school pre-school programs, to child-care subsidies for low-income working parents. Growth & Justice is a charter member of the MinneMinds coalition and we participated in a show of strength with early childhood allies at conference committee meetings this week. We also recommend the commentary by Ecolab CEO Doug Baker and prominent attorney Mike Ciresi, “Funding early education: Combine the best of Dayton's and House GOP's proposals.”
“There is almost universal support for some kind of public health care option to be implemented. A buy-in to Minnesota Care was supported, even though many think that it does not go far enough and that there should be consideration of a Minnesota single-payer system.” -- Minnesota Farmers Union report of statewide listening tour (see above).