MINNEAPOLIS – GOP-endorsed gubernatorial candidate Jeff Johnson unveiled his plan for “a better way forward” for Minnesotans facing poverty in a press conference Monday.
Standing in front of a shuttered workforce training center in north Minneapolis, Johnson was joined by three individuals who successfully moved from welfare to work. Johnson’s plan to tackle poverty is two-fold: jobs and education.
“If we really want to tackle poverty, it has to center around kids graduating from high school and adults working in the workplace,” Johnson said.
Johnson’s plan includes requiring every able-bodied and working-age adult who is receiving welfare benefits to be actively seeking work, receiving training, volunteering, or working.
“I believe that we should have the strongest safety net in America, as we do, for our most vulnerable citizens,” Johnson said. “But I think we should infuse that safety net with a work requirement for those able to work. Not as a punishment, but because work is intrinsically good. And it is the only surefire way to pull people out of poverty, which is what we want for everyone.”
When asked about the costs of implementing a work requirement for welfare, Johnson said there might be a short-term cost to “bolster the system” by hiring more employees to roll out the work requirement. However, Johnson says the short-term cost is worth the long-term saving of moving more Minnesotans out of poverty.
“To me this is not the short term saving of money,” Johnson said. “This is about long-term helping move people out of poverty, which in the long-term is going to save us money. If in the next few years we actually have to hire more people to make sure this works, I’m okay with that.”
Johnson also touched on the importance of a family unit, saying he wants to eliminate every disincentive for marriage in the welfare and tax system.
“We have some rules in our welfare system that actually discourage marriage, and we should remove those,” Johnson said. “If it says that if you get married that your benefits are actually going to drop, I don’t know why we would have that in our system because families are good things.”
Johnson’s plan also highlights the education achievement gap between white students and students of color, saying parents need to have more choices and more control.
“Minnesota, as you all know, has one of the worst education achievement gaps between white students and students of color in the country. And we have for forty years now,” Johnson said.
Johnson threw out ideas like a voucher system and a “parent trigger” that would allow parents to petition for fundamental change in their school if it is chronically failing.
“Bottom line, parents deserve more options and real school choice, which we don’t have in Minnesota right now,” Johnson added.
Watch Johnson’s press conference below: