By State Rep. Dean Urdahl
It was good to hear Gov. Tim Pawlenty use the recent State of the State Address to discuss turning today’s economic struggles into opportunities for reform.
Minnesota faces a nearly $5 billion deficit and the state is at the mercy of what Pawlenty referred to as a “sea change in the national economy.” With that in mind, Pawlenty’s speech appropriately rallied around job creation. He is using tax credits to create jobs and that’s been something I’ve been advocating in the Legislature the last five years.
Pawlenty did speak of budget cuts and, while some discomfort could result, I was pleased with the general fairness in his proposals. The reality is our state needs to find ways of reducing spending in order to balance its budget as mandated by the Constitution. Pawlenty issued reform-minded proposals to cut state spending by eliminating government redundancies, creating a more efficient system. We’ll have to take a close look at the details of plans like this, but they are worthy of consideration.
Meantime, our commitment to public safety (including military) and childrens’ health care must be upheld and Pawlenty’s proposals maintain these areas as priorities. But I am concerned about what impacts reduced funding to health and human services, as well as waivered services (for the handicapped and mentally disadvantaged) will have. Pawlenty not only spared K-12 education from cuts, he even proposed increased funding, along with enhanced standards for both students and teachers.
We will put these proposals under a legislative microscope in the days and weeks to follow. More information will be available when Pawlenty’s budget message is released Jan. 27.
On another note, efforts to restore the Green Acres program its former makeup continue. Changes implemented last session inflicted serious tax implications on some participants and caused a lot of confusion. Here’s an update:
A Green Acres hearing will take place Jan. 21. We will review the Legislative Auditor's report and then hear from those who want to testify. A Jan. 27 hearing will follow when authors of Green Acres bills will present their legislation. The intent at this hearing is to form a single bill for consideration by tax committees.
Dean Urdahl represents District 18B in the Minnesota House of Representatives. The district includes most of Meeker County and a portion of Wright County. This is Urdahl’s fourth term in the Legislature after being elected in 2002, 2004, 2006 and 2008.