To the editor,
It is good to be back at the Capitol for the start of the 2013 session so we can take on the important issues we face in Minnesota.
A number of people have asked me what to expect in the headlines this session. I believe budget/economic issues and paying back delayed K-12 funds should unquestionably be our top priorities.
In reality, pretty much everything is on the table since Democrats control the governor’s office and both bodies of the Legislature for the first time in decades. That could cause ideas to emerge from the back burner, including social issues like legalizing gay marriage.
The very first bill House Democrats introduced this session – H.F. 1 – would pay back part of the remaining K-12 shift. As I see it, there are three problems with the proposal. First, it only pays back approximately half of the remaining $1.1 billion balance. The bill also fails to indicate what money would be used for the payback. Finally, Gov. Dayton has repeated time and again he will not take a piecemeal approach to budgeting, making this proposal destined for his veto pen.
We already have put $1.6 billion in surplus revenue our state has generated over the last year or so toward squaring our K-12 debt. Not only have we fully repaid the K-12 shift enacted in 2011, but we have paid off approximately half of the K-12 debt enacted when Democrats were previously in the majority.
I mentioned that Democrats control both the House and the Senate for this biennium. One thing which really concerns me is the large number of committee chairs from the metro area. Even the agricultural finance budget apparently will be put together in a committee chaired by a Minneapolis legislator. This is only the second time almost 150 years a Twin Cities legislator has controlled the ag. budget.
We offered an amendment on Day 1 of the new session to rectify this situation by putting ag. finance decisions in the hands of a chair from outstate Minnesota. That proposal should have been a common-sense “yes” vote on a simple procedure to put ag. finance where it belongs. Instead, the move was blocked in a party-line vote, with Democrats – even rural ones – voting to keep ag. finance decisions in the hands of a Minneapolis environmentalist.
There was a lot of talk last fall about how the Legislature needs to do a better job of working together and getting along. I hope this ag. glitch is just an isolated incident and not an indication that all the talk leading up to this session was just that, talk.
I will keep local citizens updated as these and other issues develop. Many challenges remain, but we must remember our state is in much better shape now than it was two years ago. Unemployment is down, revenue is up (without raising taxes) and much of our K-12 debt has been eliminated.
Please provide me with input as we progress through the session. Input from people in our area is very helpful as I work to represent the wishes of the people in District 8A. You can reach me by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org, or by calling (651) 296-4946.
Rep. Bud Nornes