By Rep. Dean Urdahl
The 2011 legislative session is still in its infancy but you already can see a new direction taking hold at the Capitol.
We spent all fall talking about how we want to encourage job creation and reform the process by which our government sets its budget. Within the first week of the new session we introduced one bill to streamline the permitting process for our state’s businesses, and unveiled another bill to implement priority-based budgeting to help our state government live within its means.
Minnesota’s sometimes cumbersome permitting process has been a source of contention with small-business owners and farmers in our area and throughout the state. I authored a bill to make significant improvements in this area and it was the genesis of the first bill to be filed this session. This version is comprised of six initiatives designed to shorten the amount of time it takes to get a permit, making it easier for businesses to start up or expand in Minnesota.
Among components of the measure is a 150-day goal for the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency and Minnesota Department of Natural Resources to issue permits, and a report is required for applications not meeting that goal. The bill also protects our environment by adopting MPCA standards for air, water and hazardous waste that is more stringent than any similar federal standard.
I will be working to amend the bill during the legislative process, strengthening certain provisions.
The second bill we introduced creates a more effective system of setting the state’s budget. As backward as it seems, the tendency has been for the government to spend money and then raise taxes to cover it. Our new approach is one families and small businesses take every day: Determine how much money we have and then pay our bills on a priority basis.
People throughout the district tell me they don’t understand how our government can keep spending more than it can afford and then ask taxpayers to pick up the tab. For instance, Minnesota would actually have a 5-percent budget surplus in the upcoming biennium if not for commitments to outspend our growth by $6.2 billion.
The good news is things are changing for the better in St. Paul. We are making progress in applying common sense, fiscal responsibility and real reforms for our state government. We will continue focusing on improving Minnesota’s business climate so we can help people get back to work and widen the stream of tax revenue instead of dredging deeper into the existing pool.
It will take some time for our new approaches to take root and pay dividends, but a more sustainable future is on its way.
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 fifth term in the Legislature after being elected in 2002, 2004, 2006, 2008 and 2010.