Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Strib editorial highlights

The Strib, which also just announced that they were sold for less than half of what they were purchased for, ran a four part series on key legislative issues.

Here is a sampling.


"In 2003, trying to balance the state budget, Gov. Tim Pawlenty borrowed millions of dollars from MinnesotaCare's "health care access fund" and cut thousands of families from the program. Minnesota still has the nation's lowest uninsured rate, but that number is creeping upward. Just since 2001, the number of uninsured children has climbed by more than 11,000 to an estimated 73,000."

GOPers use the figure that 92% of all Minnesotan's are insured. They fail to disucss the number of Minnesotan's that are underinsured. We heard their plight while out campaigning. Whether its the family that struggles after a catastrophic medical event, or increases to premiums, Minnesotan's really do struggle with access to affordable and quality healthcare. It's time to do something about this, and starting with children makes the most sense.

"Minnesota has the money. The MinnesotaCare provider tax produces an annual surplus of $50 million to $100 million -- if lawmakers would quit raiding it for other purposes. Combined with federal matching funds, that's probably enough to do the job."

Conservatives decry any sort of health care plan to cover everyone. While most people I spoke to support it, some in our area were very upity about the premisce of everyone having access. They truly do not understand the concept of preventative maintenance.

Higher Education

The editors do not support the concept of a tuition freeze at all, calling it a populist move in the Legislature.

I disagree.

Students were disproportionately taxed by the GOP and Pawlenty the past 4 years. Cuts to MnSCU and the U of M forced large double digit tuition increases across the board, for most of my higher education experience.

The money is there for a tuition freeze and making this bold statement does several things.

First, it shows the committment to affordable education to our college students.

Secondly, it forces administrators to deliver an efficient product. When students worked to cap tuition several years ago, and when we tried to freeze it as well, we heard cries of large and deep cuts on our campuses.

Nothing of the sort occurred.

I support the idea of investing in the technology side of education, which should include a move towards renewable energy sources on our campuses. Make our campuses the fertile soil for which these programs can grow and prosper!


"In June 2004 the Hiawatha light-rail line debuted to rave reviews from riders, applause from community leaders and a volume of passengers that far exceeded official projections. The result? Minnesota won't open its next light-rail line until ... 2014."

The Strib is correct, it's appalling!

Unfortunately, so was the Strib's portrayal of the transportation problem.

I do believe that light rail is the way to go. However, we have some real problems that need addressing today.

I heard the grumble when rural Minnesota read the editorial. Who's going to help us? With the majority of roads in rural areas, we see a disproportionate amount of funding to maintain the heart of this state.

The Transportation Amendment is a start, possibly a poor start, but a start nonetheless. We will have dedicated funding for transportation to the tune of $300 million a year. Billions of dollars need to be spent.

A comprehensive plan is needed to address the issue as a whole! Light rail and other mass transit opportunities can fix many of the metro transit woes. At some point, we cannot build enough roads to quickly and safely transport people and goods.

Obviously Congressman Oberstar's seat on the Transportation Committee will help our state, but at some point, we need our elected leaders to really find a solution to our transportation woes.

Early Childhood Education

"Cuts in state child care assistance to low-income families combined with a freeze in reimbursement to care providers to push her monthly child care bill from $58 to an unaffordable $359 in 2003. Her children dropped out of their child care center, to be cared for by a friend."

In rural areas the problem is even bigger. With low and stagnant wages and rising health care costs, familes struggle for the basics.

"Nationally, about two-thirds of kindergarteners are in school all day. In Minnesota, that's true of only one-third. "

All day Kindergarten is only a part of the solution. Ensuring that kids get opportunites before they enter the K-12 system levies the playing field. Education is the great equalizer in our society. Ensuring that families have access to affordable child care programs and opportunities to educate their children is a top priority.

All told, the Strib exposed the top issues from the campaign season for discussion. While I do not agree with some of their stances, at least they have exposed the issues that matter most to Minnesotan's.

While a smoking ban is not in those priorities (Strib may pubish something later), I would expect the Legislature to take action. Despite the GOP discussion of freedom, the ban is the right thing to do. Allowing counties and other local governments to ban smoking will be worse for businesses than an all out ban.

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