Our State Rep on the other side of the district, Rep Ron Shimanski, had this to say about the Willmar forum.
Meanwhile, the House-Senate listening session in Willmar Thursday night was well attended by an estimated 250 people. The issues they raised revolved around the state budget, spending programs and taxes and the results were close to what we expected.The West Central Tribune covered the same budget forum.
We have a state deficit which could be approaching $7 billion by the time we receive the end of February forecast, so a lot of people used the event as an opportunity to explain why the group they represent should be spared from potential budget cuts. Other people talked about the need to slow the rise of state spending; it has increased 140 percent since 1992; or hold off tax increases. There were no truly innovative ways presented to either reduce state spending or increase revenue.
Some public employees asked for a fairly drawn tax increase to maintain programs that serve vulnerable people.State employee's chimed in, talking about the importance of their work.
Others said that no tax increase was acceptable, and that across-the-board budget cuts would be a better solution.
County and school officials asked for relief from mandates — requirements the state hands down without providing the money to carry them out.
In the words of Christie Kurth, executive director of the Willmar Area Food Shelf, “We’re all here asking you not to cut us any more than you have to.”I love the idea of townhall meetings. I don't like the perception that these meetings will offer the magic bullet solution to our budget woes.
Several state employees who provide services to mentally ill and developmentally disabled people asked that those programs be spared from budget cuts. If basic services are not available for the people who are living on their own in communities, they said, the cost of their care could be much higher in the long run.
Frank Lawatsch, administrator at Swift County-Benson Hospital said the hospital has already seen its bad debts increase.
“More and more people can’t pay their medical bills,” he said, and a proposal to remove 84,000 adults from state insurance programs will make the problem worse. People without insurance often seek care at emergency rooms, where the costs are much higher than at clinics, he said.
Public defenders, prosecutors and judges told the legislators stories about the problems created in the judicial system by cuts made in the past few years.
Glen Jacobson, a Renville County attorney, told a story about a woman whose felony conviction was overturned because she was denied her constitutional right to a speedy trial. The trial had been delayed repeatedly in an overworked system, he said.
If more cuts are made, “you will be killing the rule of law as we know it in Minnesota,” he said.
Although I believe that Governor Pawlenty's proposal is insufficient, I'd like to see the proposal from my fellow Democrats.
I had lunch with a friend of mine that ran for the House this past year. We both had some interesting thoughts on Senator Pogemiller's response to free Senate hiring and announce that pay cuts could be voluntary.
Voluntary? What a sacrifice!
When my pay was cut, the only voluntary act was to stay employed.
Like I've said in previous posts, cut the per diem and other perks.
Impose term limits so that we can rid our hallowed chambers of stagnant ideas that didn't work 20 years ago and won't work now.
The frustration level amongst run of the mill citizen is immense.
I'd like to see a real proposal soon...and no more rhetoric.