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Getting a Head Start on the 2013 Session

May 2, 2012

ST. PAUL, Minn. - Supporters say a bill introduced this week at the state Capitol isn't late to the party, but actually an early view of what they hope will gain passage in 2013.

The Family Economic Security Act, HF 3043, would make a serious impact on poverty in Minnesota, says Brian Rusche, executive director of the Joint Religious Legislative Coalition.

"Which is, in my belief, one of the big challenges that we face as a state. We've got too many families that are living at the edge, working for wages that aren't sufficient to support a household, and challenged by the costs of child care and housing."

The legislation would increase child-care funding for low-income parents and change the tax code to make it more friendly to working families, Rusche says.

The bill also seeks to raise the minimum wage in Minnesota to $9.50 an hour - an increase Rusche calls long overdue.

"The minimum wage has been decimated by inflation. We haven't adjusted it here in Minnesota for a long time. Most people are shocked to know that it's at $7.25. You can't do that. You can't live on a $7.25 full-time, year-round job. You can't raise a family on that."

The Family Economic Security Act would not only put more funding into child-care programs for low income families, but would also expand eligibility. Mary Nienow, executive director of Child Care Works, sees those changes as vitally important.

"The more we learn about the early years and brain development, the more we realize that making investments in early childhood and making sure our children are in caring, responsive settings, I think, is critical to our future prosperity."

About 7,000 Minnesota families are eligible for child-care assistance but on a waiting list because of a lack of funding.

The bill's text is online at revisor.mn.com.

John Michaelson, Public News Service - MN