State Representative – 45B
May 20, 2009
How will the final outcome specifically impact our northwest area cities and school districts?
The budget the Legislature passed and sent to the Governor is a balanced, responsible plan that cuts spending, includes wise use of one-time money and makes our tax system more fair. Minnesotans want high-quality education, access to affordable health care and safe communities. The majority of these bills were signed earlier than in recent years. The exception is that the Governor vetoed a bill that would protect schools, hospitals and nursing homes from further cuts. It will be impossible to fund these priorities if Minnesota continues to face massive deficits.
The E-12 and higher education bills protect students and begin building a workforce ready to compete in a global economy by preventing cuts to K-12 education. In addition, the Legislature passed several tax bills that were signed which included no cuts to Local Government Aid or other property tax relief programs.
Finally, the Legislature passed a carefully crafted health and human services bill that protected the most vulnerable Minnesotans and our health care infrastructure. Unfortunately, Governor Pawlenty line-item vetoed the General Assistance Medical Care program in fiscal year 2011 which will cause thousands of the poorest and sickest Minnesotans to lose their health care and cause North Memorial Medical Center to lose $21 million and Hennepin County Medical Center to lost $110 million. It will also likely increase the amount of uncompensated care the hospitals provide adding additional strain to an already stressed system.
What is your assessment of the overall session?
The House made Minnesota’s short- and long-term economic recovery our focus this session. In the worst economy since World War II, we talked with 25,000 Minnesotans at town hall meetings throughout the state and by email to understand Minnesota’s priorities. It was clear that Minnesotans prioritized jobs and economic recovery while maintaining strong education, health care and public infrastructure. The House took advantage of every opportunity to save and even create new jobs in our budget. We passed a bonding bill that will create thousands of jobs.
Budget cuts were targeted to avoid devastating layoffs in both the public and private sector. Finally, we provided training programs to help Minnesotans learn new skills in a changing economy.
Governor Pawlenty, on the other hand, tried to spend money he did not have. He finally abandoned his expensive plan to borrow money to pay off the deficit that would have cost $1.8 billion over twenty years. It’s like using one credit card to pay off another. But unfortunately Governor Pawlenty was unwilling to work with the Legislature to compromise on an alternative source of revenue.
Instead Governor Pawlenty is threatening to use his emergency powers to make budget cuts all on his own. The decision to unallot will once again hurt local communities with cuts to local police and fire service, hospitals and nursing homes as well as public colleges and universities. The Governor’s decision to go-it-alone means he will get his advice from unelected advisors and not Minnesotans and their elected representatives.
What bills were passed that specifically impact this area for better or worse?
• The Legislature passed $40,000 for beautification of Victory Memorial Parkway. The sunset for the Victory Memorial Parkway Taskforce was also removed to continue the planning process.
• The bonding bill included $1 million for the WWI Veterans Victory Memorial Parkway portion of the Grand Rounds Scenic Byway.
• The bonding bill also included $21 million for transit capital improvements. The Bottineau Boulevard Transit Way qualifies for the funds to conduct environmental work for the Bottineau Transit Way corridor.
• The Legislature also passed $13.3 million for the North Hennepin Community College Center for Business and Technology. The project was line-item vetoed by the Governor for the second year in a row.
What kinds of constituent comments did you receive? More or less than in previous sessions?
The residents of district 45B are always engaged in issues facing the Legislature. I received many phone calls, letters and visits from constituents throughout the session urging the Legislature to preserve Minnesota’s education, health care and local government assets. Minnesotans believe in shared sacrifice and shared responsibility to solve the budget crisis and wanted to do their fair share to absorb the cuts, but also to raise revenue in a fair and progressive way and not force the bill onto future generations.