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

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Monday, January 23, 2012
Last session, Minnesota lawmakers approved dozens of reforms that will ultimately save Minnesota taxpayers billions of dollars in future budgets. The success of this plan led House Republicans to prioritize Reform 2.0, our 2012 agenda driven by reform ideas generated by you and your neighbors. Minnesotans can be proud, as they came up with hundreds of reform ideas, many of which are now being turned into legislation. After reviewing all of the proposals, the final Reform 2.0 agenda will attempt to focus on three specific areas: jobs and growing our economy, improving our education and health care systems, and improving government effectiveness. Private sector job providers told us they are playing at a competitive disadvantage with neighboring states because Minnesota has higher taxes, more regulations, and more difficult permitting. Reform 2.0 seeks to get government out of their way so they can create jobs and help improve Minnesota’s economy. That means giving job creators some direct property tax relief, and continuing to improve our permitting process. It will also lead to creating a Small Business Regulatory Review Board that will review current rules and repeal those that are outdated or duplicative and have a negative impact on the state’s economy. And it also means reforming the prevailing wage laws that significantly impact the cost of construction in rural Minnesota. In the area of health care, Reform 2.0 will address areas of common sense. This includes combining health care purchasing power under one agency; expanding on the defined benefit contribution program, which will provide some MinnesotaCare recipients with the ability to pay for private health care; allowing conversion of life insurance money to pay for long-term care; as well as up-front screening and detection for Medicaid fraud. Welfare reform will also be addressed. Minnesota has a Cadillac plan when compared with welfare programs in neighboring states. The taxpayers are tired of it and we will work to mirror welfare standards with those states on our borders. While this plan is still under consideration, some changes could include changing the maximum income for eligibility, altering the monthly cash allowance, changing the time limit to 36 months from 60 months, and instituting a permanent disqualification for drug offenders. In the area of education, the Legislature will focus on education reform that improves teacher effectiveness, because effective teaching improves student achievement. Reform 2.0 will continue to push for strong teacher evaluations, pay linked to teacher and student performance, and removing barriers to getting rid of bad teachers. The “Last In, First Out” policies that give absolutely no consideration to teacher effectiveness need to end. Change can be difficult, but it is clearly necessary. State government simply is not responding to the needs of our economy and our citizens. How else can you explain why there’s no state policy for accepting electronic signatures for state contracts and agreements? The federal government established this policy 12 years ago, yet in Minnesota, state employees waste countless hours gathering contract signatures while the paperwork is delivered via U.S. Mail. This is just one example of an inefficient government that needs repair. The state government of yesteryear no longer meets our current needs. View it as a door-to door salesman trying to sell encyclopedias to consumers already utilizing Google Search. America is changing. Minnesota is changing – and it’s clear we aren’t keeping up. We’re in the middle of the pack when it comes to student reading test scores. Our current state education model came about before we put a man on the moon. Minnesota ranks 43rd in business tax climate which is keeping job providers away – as proven by Kestrel Aircraft’s recent decision to create 600 new jobs in Superior, Wisconsin rather than Duluth. This session, lawmakers will not have to worry about budget issues. Thanks in large part to the reforms we enacted last session, we have a nearly $1 billion surplus, and state law requires that money to be allocated to Minnesota’s budget reserves. Now is the perfect time to improve on last year’s reform success and make Minnesota’s government more accountable, more efficient, and more effective.
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