MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — We are just five days away from the start of Minnesota’s Legislative session. House Democrats are proposing a half-billion dollar investment in child care and pre-school education.

In a novel twist, the Democratic House Speaker challenged Senate Republicans to follow the lead of President Donald Trump.

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While critics may take issue with the depth of Trump’s support for family leave and accessible child care, the President talked about both in his State of the Union address.

“I have also overseen historic funding increases for high quality child care, enabling 17 states to help more children,” he said.

Speaker of the Minnesota House Melissa Hortman waved the president’s own repeated statements on child care and family leave as a trump card in the face of the Senate Republican majority.

“They seem to be very in line with their president on all sorts of things, maybe they should get in line with their president on paid family leave and child care,” she said.

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With the legislative session starting in one week and the state sitting on a $1.3 billion surplus and another $2.3 billion in a rainy day fund, House Democrats say this is the time to spend on Minnesota’s achievement and opportunity gaps for low income residents and minorities.

“This opportunity gap is too big and persisted for too long, its time for us to acknowledge we have a really big problem,” Hortman said.

Minnesota House Democrats say other priorities include an affordable insulin program, lowering the cost of other prescription drugs as well as passing gun control measures, including expanded background checks and a red flag law.

In a statement, House Republicans echoed what Senate Republicans said in a news conference last month, saying they “will work to lower taxes, reduce health care costs and bring real accountability to the Department of Human Services.”

One thing we did not hear on that priority list from House Democrats is the question of legalizing recreational marijuana, something Gov. Tim Walz has talked about.

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Hortman made it clear the House Democrats’ number one priority is spending on early child care and education.

Esme Murphy