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Murphy talks health care, child care, education in Worthington visit

Erin Murphy, the Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party’s endorsed candidate for Minnesota governor, spoke to supporters Thursday, June 7, during a campaign stop in Moorhead. Carissa Wigginton / The Forum 1 / 2
Minnesota DFL gubernatorial candidate Erin Murphy speaks with a reporter Tuesday in Worthington. (Ryan McGaughey/The Globe)2 / 2

WORTHINGTON — Gubernatorial hopeful Erin Murphy is focused on building toward the future, which means investing in priorities like health care, child care, education, infrastructure and broadband.

The District 64A representative, former DFL Minnesota House Majority Leader and former executive director of the Minnesota Nurses Association stopped by Worthington Tuesday, where she touched on a number of issues affecting southwest Minnesota residents.

Chief among those is health care. Murphy noted premiums are rising to completely unaffordable levels, particularly for farmers and small business owners that don’t have purchasing power as individuals.

“It is an issue that is top of mind for the people of Minnesota in a way I haven’t seen it for the nearly 30 years I’ve been working on health care and health policy,” she said.

Murphy, endorsed by the DFL and the National Nurses United union, favors making MinnesotaCare available to all Minnesotans and having the state contract directly with health care providers, taking insurers out of the picture to save money.

In addition, Murphy said she would use the state’s purchasing power to lower drug prices. She referenced the story of 26-year-old Minneapolis man Alec Smith, who died shortly after he began rationing his $1,300 diabetes medication, which he couldn’t afford.

“He died because he couldn’t afford insulin, a medication that’s been on the market since the 1920s … that shouldn’t happen,” Murphy said.

Murphy said Minnesotans are ahead of policy makers in understanding the problem and having an appetite to change the health care system. But she said change in that area will take a seismic shift in St. Paul in which legislators are not beholden to special interests.

An example of that influence over politicians, she said, is a bill sponsored by District 22B Rep. Rod Hamilton, R-Mountain Lake, that would have prohibited health plans and pharmacy benefit managers from altering medication coverage for Minnesota patients.

“There he is sitting in a powerful seat in the House, and he cannot get that bill advanced right now,” Murphy said. “That’s the power of the voices that are too strong right now inside the Capitol.”

Education, including early childhood education, is a top priority of Murphy’s campaign as well.

Murphy stressed the importance of helping kids find their careers by providing access to technical schools and community colleges — policy that would help alleviate the workforce shortage. She added that immigration is important for providing a workforce, referencing JBS, the Worthington pork processing plant where 58 different languages and dialects are spoken.

Access to child care, which ties into both early childhood education and the rural workforce shortage, is also an issue of note for Murphy. She said the state needs to treat family child care like a small business and give those small businesses more support, as well as eliminate the waiting list for the Child Care Assistance Program. She also said the volume of rules and regulations should be examined.

“I want to make sure the regulatory frame we’re using is manageable and understandable,” Murphy said.

Child care is just one important tool for working families in which the state needs to invest, Murphy said, along with elder care and paid family leave.

Continuing with the theme of investment, Murphy said she would dedicate new revenue from online sales taxes — in lieu of the Wayfair v. South Dakota Supreme Court case that allows states to tax all online sales — to expand the state’s broadband infrastructure.

Murphy said that although she is a strong DFLer, she has worked with Republicans in the past on health care, education and the arts, and would continue to do so as governor while hoping to reverse what she called a movement toward “Washington, D.C.-style politics.”

“It’s important that we remember we’re here to represent the interest of Minnesotans and not just the party’s ideology,” she said. “But we have to use our voices together to change the dynamic in the Capitol, because otherwise I think the political interests will hold the status quo in place.”