ST. PAUL – After hearing from dozens of concerned residents at town meetings in Redwood Falls, New Ulm, Sleepy Eye and Springfield recently, State Representative Paul Torkelson (R-Hanska) said he was pleased with the local feedback on legislative issues.
“Both Senator Dahms and I were happy with the turnout and we always enjoy hearing from area residents about problems they want fixed and legislation they want us to support or oppose,” Torkelson said.
Torkelson noted that the most popular topics discussed during the town hall events were property taxes, nursing homes, transportation, and preschool for four-year olds.
Regarding nursing homes, group homes and disability care, much of the talks centered on the need for better pay – a priority Torkelson has consistently supported during his tenure in the Minnesota House.
“Our local facilities are struggling to keep employees because they can make more money just about anywhere else in their community,” Torkelson said. “This just isn’t right, and its why one of our top House priorities this year is to reform the way nursing homes and long term care facilities are compensated and help ensure that our quality caregivers stay in a profession that desperately needs them.”
Lawmakers also heard about property tax concerns from rural landowners who are being leveled with rising taxes, particularly when a community approves a local bond levy. In these situations, they are often taxed ten times more than a city homeowner – even though both only have one vote in the matter.
Transportation is also a critical issue in southwestern Minnesota, and Torkelson said he is confident lawmakers will make progress on road and bridge funding this session.
“A recent poll found that 75 percent of Minnesotans oppose Governor Dayton’s $9 billion tax and fee increase for transportation needs, which would cause drivers to pay a minimum of 16-cents per gallon more at the pump,” Torkelson said. “So we will need to come up with a solution that satisfies not only the public but a bipartisan group of lawmakers – and we will.”
Finally, Torkelson said there was no support among town meeting attendees for the governor’s idea to spend $109 million to allow four-year olds to go to preschool.
“Folks that brought up this topic said that there are other issues relating to school mandates and funding that aren’t currently being addressed, so why would we waste new money on preschool,” Torkelson noted.
“It’s always good to meet with the public and hear about the issues that are important to them, and I thank everyone who took time out of their schedules to visit with us,” Torkelson concluded.