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Minnesota Legislature

Legislative News and Views - Rep. Steve Drazkowski (R)

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CONFERENCE COMMITTEE REPORTS LACK PRIORITIZATION

Friday, May 08, 2009
These days, the House and Senate are participating in conference committees that attempt to reconcile differences between similar bills that have been approved by both bodies. If a compromise can be reached, this negotiated legislation is then sent back to the House and Senate for approval and then delivered to Governor Pawlenty for his signature or veto. We’re starting to see compromise proposals on finance bills that fund certain areas of state government for the next two years. I’d like to tell you these bills have improved after returning from conference. While most of them contain funding cuts as Minnesota faces a $6.4 billion budget deficit, they also aren’t cutting spending enough or are funding the wrong priorities. For instance, take the economic development finance bill. Here’s a $349 million proposal that, despite the fact that Minnesota unemployment is nearing an all-time high, does not create any jobs in this state. It also does not improve the business climate in this state, which is the most crucial component that will turn our economy around. But what does it include? A nearly $33 million loan write-off. The City of St. Paul owes Minnesota this amount for funding the Xcel Energy Center, yet the liberal leadership in this state has negotiated a deal that would forgive this debt. Does it seem a bit hypocritical that the same Democrats who are telling us we have to raise your taxes by $1.5 billion in order to keep government operational are now refusing to collect $33 million? Most Minnesotans would likely agree that state transportation dollars should be used to keep our roadways safe. But instead of prioritizing roadway safety in their transportation finance budget, the Democrats are reducing funding for highway and infrastructure maintenance. And in order to keep Metro Area transit funding whole for the next two years, they’re shifting money away from funding that should be headed towards road and bridge construction. We also debated an environment finance bill that should have increased government efficiency and create reform. Instead, it adds $14 million in new fees, continues government involvement in industries the private sector could run more efficiently, and places further restrictions on our ailing mining industry. Throughout this session, House Republicans have proposed bills that would have provided $8 billion in savings, reforms, and efficiencies - and solved our budget woes. To my knowledge none have been adopted, and most are not even considered by Democratic leadership. Instead, we are approving funding legislation crafted by inner-city legislative liberals that contains lousy priorities and defies common sense.