By Dean Urdahl
State Representative, District 18B
Earlier in the session I asked you to please fill out my legislative survey, which asked for your input on certain topics that were likely to be debated at the Capitol. Hundreds of you responded this year and I thought you might be interested in what you all have to say.
A majority, 52 percent, said you support more money for K-12 education as long as greater levels of accountability come along with the money. Increased K-12 funding has support from both sides of the aisle this year. On another education question, 51 percent supported giving more money to higher education institutions to keep tuition down as opposed to giving more financial aid to needy students. Governor Pawlenty is considering the feasibility of transferring more higher education money to students so universities would have to improve and compete for students. His plan is clearly dead in this legislative session and may not surface as a legitimate policy proposal for several years.
Forty percent said “reducing government spending” is their preferred way to balance the state’s budget. Only 10 percent support using a tax increase. Rising government health care costs are cited as the main factor creating the state’s budget problems, 58 percent of you said “No” to increasing government health care funding, which is expected to cost the state about $4 billion over the next two years.
A 5-cent gas tax increase was narrowly selected as the best option for increasing the state’s transportation improvement budget. One percent less said there should be no increase of any kind on transportation spending. Fifty-five percent said county property taxes are the best way to pay for local government services such as policing and snow plowing.
One of this year’s hot-button issues is gaming and 75 percent of you favor Indian tribes giving a portion of their casino revenue to the state for use in the general fund or specifically for education. Another controversial issue, the smoking ban, drew similar support with 74 percent supporting a ban in some form. Both of these issues failed in House committees this year, but they are by no means off the table. Any bill introduced can be brought up at any time until the start of the next biennium in January 2007.
I want to thank all of you who took part in this year’s survey. As your state representative, I need to know where you stand so that I can weigh your beliefs when I determine how I will vote. One of the best ways to gauge how the public feels on these topics is by completing my session survey. My thanks to all who took the time to make their voices heard.
What’s on your mind? Constituents in the new District 18B in Meeker and Wright counties can contact me at 521 State Office Building, 100 Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr Blvd.., St. Paul, MN 55155, call me at (651) 296-4344, or e-mail me at email@example.com.