Tricounty News

Econ. recovery top priority in 2009

The Minnesota State Legislature convened last week for the 2009 session at a pivotal moment in the history of our state. The current recession is affecting almost every Minnesotans in the form of job losses, home foreclosures, and has hurt Minnesota businesses small and large. It has rippled to our state budget where we face a $5 billion budget deficit. This session, we have two over-arching goals. First, we must do everything we can to help Minnesotans recover from this economic recession. Second, we must responsibly balance our budget in a way that minimizes harm and puts our state in a strong position for long-term economic prosperity. Any legislative action to help in Minnesota's economic recovery must begin with a discussion on job protection and job creation. Minnesotans lost more than 50,000 jobs in the past year and economists expect that number could double this year. With the economic outlook still sour, it's important we look for proactive solutions that can keep Minnesotans employed and develop strategies to put those who are unemployed back to work. We first must work hand-in-hand with our Congressional leaders and local officials in a coordinated response. As you may have heard, a federal economic stimulus package is being considered in Washington that could total $1 trillion. We need to ensure federal dollars sent to Minnesota are spent effectively and spent quickly. The only way to do both is by getting legislators, local officials, state agencies and the public involved and working together before any federal checks are written. That way can maximize the economic impact of any federal stimulus dollars. Finding ways to spark our small businesses is another top priority. There are several proposals being considered that would promote green jobs in emerging renewable energy technologies for things like biodiesel and wind energy. Reforming existing programs and services is another route we will examine. As we look through our budget, we can also prioritize programs that have a positive impact on job retention or creation. Reforming the Green Acres program is an issue important to the economy of Central Minnesota. Over the past several months I have been in touch with farmers and landowners with land enrolled in Green Acres and local officials to get a sense about the impact of the changes in law that were passed last year. I will be working with both Democrats and Republicans on legislation that will reform Green Acres to promote conservation and support our farmers and landowners. Along with efforts to strengthen our economy, the Legislature's top task will be to balance our large deficit. With no quick fix or easy answer, it's important we weigh the value of every possible option so that our balanced budget reflects the values we share as Minnesotans. Spending cuts will be necessary and we should start with programs or services that are outdated or inefficient. Legislative committees are already hard at work going through the budget with unprecedented specificity so that we can pass the leanest, most efficient budget in state history. As we consider budget options, it's important we continue to focus on jobs and our economy. Programs and services that affect our economy in both the short and long term should be prioritized. If we view this budget problem as a mere subtraction problem we will undoubtedly create bigger problems down the road. Throughout the budget process, it's important you have the opportunity to be involved. I want to know how this economic recession is affecting you and your family. Your input will be very helpful to me as we work to balance the budget in a way that positions us toward a stronger economic future. I encourage you to call, write or e-mail me this session at (651) 296-4373, 565 State Office Building St. Paul MN 55155, or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .