Respectful debate needed as state leaders discuss issuesPublished 1:28pm Wednesday, January 23, 2013
With the first two weeks of the 2013-2014 legislative session behind us, lawmakers will soon begin debating a flurry of legislation that will have a big impact on Minnesotans across our state.
Optimism, cooperation, bipartisanship and working together are all words and phrases that describe my hoped-for experience this session. Why? Because this past election voters delivered a clear message: they are tired of political games and partisan bickering. Our constituents expect us to work together in a serious and focused manner to find common ground and make responsible decisions.
As bills make their way through committees over the coming weeks, I am hopeful for respectful, civilized, and constructive debates that focus on what’s best for the people of Minnesota — not our respective political parties.
Unfortunately, some legislators are already trying to fan political flames instead of working together. Barely one week into the legislative session, my colleague Rep. Rod Hamilton attacked DFL legislators over the issue of how the Agriculture Committees are structured and accused DFLers of not representing our rural districts. His decision to use such a divisive and negative tone was disappointing.
Challenging the advocacy skills or commitment of rural members just because they are DFLers and now are the majority caucus of the Minnesota House is not helpful in getting to the outcome we all desire. As the new Chair of the Agriculture Policy Committee, I believe we will present a stronger voice for rural Minnesota by working together as both Democrats and Republicans. It’s important we mend fences, not build walls.
With a projected $1.1 billion budget deficit, cooperation and collaboration will be key to putting our state on sound fiscal footing. We cannot afford any more gimmicks or short-term fixes. Solving our state’s perpetual budget shortfalls will not be easy, but voters did not elect us to avoid tough decisions. They elected us to solve the big challenges facing our state.
Building a budget to last requires us to use a balanced approach that prioritizes the investments that will make Minnesota successful down the road — things like world-class schools, a strong middle class, and a thriving business climate.
Despite the projected deficit, our state appears to be moving in the right direction. According to figures released last week by the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development, our state added over 9,000 jobs last month and the unemployment rate fell to 5.5 percent, well below the national rate of 7.8 percent. While these signs are encouraging, there are many families still hurting. I am hopeful Democrats and Republicans will come together and take action to put more people back to work.
I plan to closely and thoughtfully examine the budget proposal Governor Dayton released yesterday, but most importantly, I want to hear your ideas and feedback about how we can create jobs and balance the budget in a fair, responsible way. I encourage you to contact me by phone at 651-296-4194, by mail at 487 State Office Building, 100 Martin Luther King Blvd., St. Paul, MN 55155, or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.