Tricounty News

New vision and new decisions needed in coming months

With the 2009 Legislative session underway, those of us fortunate enough to hold public office will need to honestly face the most serious economic climate in a generation. The decisions we make will determine the direction of our state and our country. Minnesotans know our state faces some very serious problems. In the last few months, our state's unemployment rate reached its highest level in 22 years, our state's budget deficit is nearly $5 billion and climbing, while the federal government has passed one $700 billion bailout, bailed out the auto companies, and is currently considering a third bailout proposal. These are the facts and there's no getting around them. We cannot keep kicking the can down the road and let future generations deal with the mess. Majorities, in St. Paul and Washington, egged on by special interest groups, have made promises--pensions, government employment, health care, and education--that are unsustainable and that taxpayers simply cannot afford even under the best of circumstances, let alone under the current difficulties we currently face. These promises are focused on how much money is in the system-when the discussion really should be about providing value and effective outcomes through a focus on priorities and effective investment of taxpayer dollars. Just like what happened with the auto companies which negotiated contracts they could not afford, the $5 billion hole in our State's budget is more evidence that the bills from these past promises are coming due. It's time we figured out how to pay them, and set  Minnesota on a sound footing for the future, rather than sentencing our children and grandchildren to a legacy of debt and lost opportunity. Minnesotans deserve from the leaders in both political parties a long overdue, candid discussion about our state's priorities. It's time to end the fantasy that state government can be all things to all people and grow by an unaffordable 10 percent year after year. The reality is, state government needs to do fewer things, but do them better and provide better value to the citizens. For too long, the basic philosophy of our state's political and media elite has been that Minnesota's greatness derives from the size of our government rather than from the creativity, hard work, and basic  goodness of our people. Toward this end, they have sought an ever-expanding government paid for by one of the nation's highest tax burdens. Today, there's a fundamental difference between those of us who believe our state's quality of life is suffering under the burden of too much ineffective government, and the old-line, liberal establishment  that believes it suffers from too little government. Their position is difficult to defend when you consider that state spending is up 70 percent over the past decade and the array of taxes, regulations, and mandates is crippling our job creators or driving them out of state. We need to take off the shackles of excessive government which are inhibiting innovation, investment, and progress. It's time for politicians and their special interest allies to stop using the state budget as a political tool to reward their friends and instead get serious about putting the state on sound financial footing and making this state a place where our citizens can find and keep good jobs and afford to raise a family, rather than sentencing our children and grandchildren to a legacy of debt and lost opportunity. As children, most of us learned the adage "necessity is the mother of invention." That's where we are as a state. We cannot simply continue to do the same things we have always done, just more expensively. We must reevaluate everything we are doing as a state  government, beginning with making sure we're taking all necessary steps to help bring back prosperity and create good paying jobs. The world is changing around us and it is up to us to determine which direction we want to go. It is up to us to determine whether we will change for success or attempt to hang on to the status quo for simple survival. Whether the challenge is ensuring that our kids get a world-class education, ensuring a strong healthcare system, or remaining economically competitive in a worldwide economy, Minnesota must lead. We cannot lead, however, if we're looking in the rearview mirror. Our options for innovation in state government are almost limitless. Yet, policy makers on all levels, Democrats and Republicans, seem to feel  boxed in by "what we've always done." Minnesota is not great because of our government. We are great because of our people. Minnesotans who are working hard to support their families have been continually asked to also work harder for government  in order to pay for the insatiable appetite for more government spending. It is about time that government starts working harder and more effectively for the people. We need policy makers to be bold enough to embark on a new vision for our state that encourages new and innovative solutions to the challenges and opportunities that Minnesota faces. State Representative  Laura Brod  291 State Office Building, 100 Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd., St. Paul,  MN 55155  Phone: (651) 296-4229;  E-mail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.