ST. PAUL – State Rep. Dean Urdahl, R-Grove City, has been named co-chair of a bipartisan group recently brought together with a serious undertaking: redesigning state government.
The idea of overhauling Minnesota’s government with an eye to efficiency is not new, but Urdahl said today’s sagging economy and dire predictions for the future may give this latest venture the legs it needs to succeed.
Minnesota faces a $1.2 billion shortfall in the short term and a deficit in the $5-8 billion range is forecast for the upcoming two-year budget cycle. Government growth and a decline in state income tax revenue are two factors that have put the state in a budgetary bind. Furthermore, projections indicate Minnesota’s tax base will shrink as baby boomers reach retirement age, placing even more importance on a government redesign.
“Our model is not sustainable as it exists today,” Urdahl said. “My goal is to deliver better value more efficiently with increased accountability. If there can be a silver lining to this recession, re-defining the way our state operates may be it.”
Proposals to streamline everything from K-12 education to health care and government units themselves are likely to be considered. A “Redesign Comment Line” is available for citizens to provide suggestions at www.house.mn/redesign.
Urdahl said technology is one efficiency tool he would like to see implemented to a greater degree, but acknowledged there is only so much the Legislature can accomplish before it adjourns this May.
“We will start by implementing six suggestions from the citizen comment line this session and add some of our own ideas to the mix,” Urdahl said. “It would be unrealistic to think we can make all the necessary changes in a few short months and I don’t think we’ll ever get to the point where we stand back and say, ‘OK, we’re done now.’ This is going to be a process that continues indefinitely and I hope citizens of our state realize how important it is for them to be engaged in this huge project.”
Urdahl is joined on the Redesign Caucus by co-chair Reps. Carol McFarlane, R-White Bear Lake, Paul Marquardt, D-Dilworth and Diane Loeffler, D-Minneapolis.
“I’m sure there will be some cynics who will doubt that we can make meaningful improvements,” Urdahl said. “At some point we have to put partisanship aside because, frankly, significant budget changes are going to happen whether we act or not; I just prefer taking control of our future by working for solutions instead of playing the blame game.”
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.