Duluth News Tribune

By Sen. Amy Klobuchar

As families in Duluth and across Northeastern Minnesota continue celebrating the new year, I want to reflect on what we achieved together in 2023 as we look forward to the year ahead.

Despite a divided Congress, we worked across the aisle and made progress on a range of issues impacting the Northland. I’m going to keep up that work in 2024.

Northeastern Minnesota is a true economic hub for our state and country. That’s why I fought to secure funding for critical Arrowhead infrastructure projects, from making improvements to the Aerial Lift Bridge to ensuring the Duluth port can keep goods flowing to tackling the housing shortage. These investments will keep Northeastern Minnesota competitive for generations to come.

But I know there’s still work to do. I’m focused on ensuring the Northland gets its fair share of Bipartisan Infrastructure Law funding for projects like Duluth International Airport’s proposed new air traffic control tower and the exciting proposed Northern Lights Express rail project.

Federal funding and more will also be critical for replacing the Blatnik Bridge. This vital connector between Minnesota and Wisconsin is an economic lifeline for the Northland, with 265,000 trucks transporting almost $4 billion in goods across it every year. We need a new bridge to meet the demands of the 21st-century economy, which is why I’m working to ensure this project receives federal funding.

We can’t talk about infrastructure without also talking about broadband. Right now, 136,000 Minnesota homes and small businesses don’t have high-speed internet. That’s why I led the legislation to bring broadband to every zip code. In 2023, Minnesota received a game-changing $650 million federal grant to make this a reality.

I’m also devoted to lowering costs for families. After years of effort, Congress finally passed my legislation to end the sweetheart deal that let Big Pharma rip off seniors by charging sky-high prices for prescription drugs. In August, Medicare announced the first 10 drugs subject to that price negotiation. Drugs such as Eliquis, Xarelto, Jardiance, and Januvia were included, and a combined 9 million seniors shelled out $3.4 billion out of pocket for just these 10 drugs last year. Thankfully, in the following years, more drugs will be subject to negotiation. As a result, American taxpayers will save an estimated $281 billion over the next 10 years.

Empowering Medicare to bring down drug prices will make a world of difference for our seniors, and I want more savings to kick in as soon as possible. That’s why I’m working to pass my new bill to double the number of drugs subject to price negotiation each year — because no American should be forced to choose between filling their prescriptions and filling their refrigerator.

Through everything that happened in Washington last year, I remained laser-focused on keeping families safe. I believe we need funding for and changes to our border security. That’s why I passed bipartisan legislation in the Senate that would halt the flow of fentanyl before it ever reaches our country. Additionally, I’m leading several other bipartisan bills to crack down on online drug dealing and to hold social-media companies accountable when illegal drugs are sold over their platforms.

We can still do more on public safety. It’s a top priority for me as we head into 2024. That’s why I’ll keep working to bolster our fire departments’ resources, as well as our federal law enforcement’s ability to investigate violent crimes like carjackings and fentanyl trafficking. I also want to ensure that emergency medical services don’t leave Northeastern Minnesota behind. It’s unacceptable that towns like Nashwauk are at risk of reduced ambulance service due to high operating costs and insufficient funding. We need to bolster federal support for rural EMS — because your zip code should never stand in the way of life-saving care.

This year, I’m hopeful Congress can work together to build on the momentum we made in 2023 and address the challenges ahead. While the funding I secured for United Way of Northeastern Minnesota is a step in the right direction, we can still invest more in child care to give families peace of mind. And while the investment I secured for Chum to address homelessness is a good start, I also want to increase the supply of housing across Duluth and Northeastern Minnesota. And, of course, we’re going to need a strong, well-trained workforce to literally build a brighter future for the Northland.

As we go into 2024, you can rest assured I’ll keep reaching across the aisle to deliver real results.

From my family to yours, I wish you all a happy, healthy new year.