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Legislators expect to tackle budget, bonding bill, jobs

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The budget, a bonding bill, jobs.

2013 state legislators said these will be among the top issues when the Legislature convenes Tuesday, Jan. 8.

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Following is a rundown of what five area legislators hope to accomplish during the session, as well as what issues they expect the Legislature will tackle.

Sen.-elect Carrie Ruud,

R-Breezy Point

Senate District 10

“The big issue is jobs in this area,” said Ruud, noting that’s what she campaigned on. “That will be something that we’ll continually talk about.”

Ruud supports reducing business taxes along with reducing and prioritizing spending. The ultimate goal is to create a better business climate to attract and keep more businesses in the area.

Ruud also mentioned talk about dedicated tourism funding because Minnesota has fallen behind, and tourism is important for this area.

Regarding the budget, Ruud said she’s heard $40 billion bantered around, when last year legislators talked about a $32 billion budget.

“So for me, I think we should be looking at more efficient use of tax dollars, not just more tax dollars,” she said, noting a first priority will be to pay back the K-12 school shift money.

She also predicted gun control and the Second Amendment will be a big topic.

Rep. John Ward,

DFL-Baxter

House District 10A

The first priority will be to balance the budget.

“We are going in with a continued deficit so as I’ve stated before for the last eight years, we need to look at balancing the budget in a long-term, balanced, stable approach, and that will be using revenue, and cuts, and shared services or reform/redesign,” Ward said.

“We’ve been using short-term accounting gimmicks that have led to an unstructured approach that led to deficit after deficit after deficit.”

The second priority will be comprehensive tax reform, Ward said, noting that means property, income and sales taxes, for a more sustainable, progressive and equitable system.

“In that tax reform will be, I hope, some form of property tax relief,” Ward said, whether that be restoring the Market Value Homestead Credit or something else.

The third priority will be to pay back schools in a fiscally wise and responsible way, Ward said.

Ward’s personal goals include working toward an additional type of education funding for early childhood, K-12 and higher education. He said a state task force has issued a solid proposal for significant education funding reform.

Committees he sits on will drive other goals. In addition to being elected as an assistant majority leader, Ward is vice chair of the Capital Investment Committee; and sits on the Legacy Committee; Jobs and Economic Development Policy and Finance Committee, where Ward will work for job creation and retention for the area; Rules Committee; and Public Safety Finance and Policy Committee, which will deal with plans to close outstate State Patrol dispatching centers, consolidating dispatching from Roseville.

Ward has other individual constituent concerns both old and new that he will address throughout the session.

Rep.-elect Joe Radinovich,

DFL-Crosby

House District 10B

Radinovich expects the biggest issue will be to rectify the state’s budget situation.

“We’ve been dealing with a structural deficit in the last decade,” he said. “Up until this point I think there’s been a lot of effort to postpone the real work that needs to be done. You can only push these problems so far down the road.”

Radinovich would like to have tax reform be a part of the budget issue.

Radinovich would like to see action on an issue that was part of his campaign: fixing the education funding system so rural schools are more equitably funded and not so reliant on property tax levies.

Being born and raised in Crosby-Ironton, Radinovich said he’s seen firsthand how budgeting issues have affected that school district.

Being the youngest member of the next state Legislature at age 26, he is particularly interested in long-range planning in Minnesota. The focus has been on two-year budgets, and Radinovich said there is a need to look long-term rather than taking the short-sighted view.

“We need to invest in Minnesota’s future,” he said.

Along with that is the need to help small businesses to provide living wage jobs and to have a pool of workers to draw from for those jobs, he said.

Sen. Paul Gazelka,

R-Cass County

Senate District 9

Gazelka said one of the biggest issues this session would be the projected billion dollar budget shortfall.

“But I think it’s important to remember that we have $2 billion in revenue,” but increases go to $3 billion, he said.

“So we have to be fiscally responsible for that and make sure we’re using our resources wisely,” he said.

Across the state, Gazelka would like to work to make Minnesota a place that job creators want to go. To that end, he hopes to reform the permitting process so it’s faster, making it easier for businesses to expand.

Rep.-elect Mark Anderson,

R-Lake Shore

House District 9A

“The bonding issue is going to be huge this year,” Anderson said. He also foresees that there will be requests for more stadium funding.

“I don’t think pull tabs (revenue) is going to be on-course,” he said of stadium funding.

Anderson believes aquatic invasive species will continue to be a big issue as well.

One of Anderson’s goals is simply to have an influence. “I’m freshman minority,” he said, noting he wonders if he’ll get a hearing.

Another goal is to get businesses “relieved from being tax collectors for the government.” He believes businesses shouldn’t be liable for withholding their employees’ taxes, but the employees themselves should be.

Ward said much of what the state Legislature does will depend on how the federal government handles the fiscal cliff, as well as the next state budget forecast in February.

“If we go over the fiscal cliff, that changes everything significantly,” Ward said. “The state of Minnesota stands to lose big-time dollars. That will change the whole revenue outlook.”

Another good state budget forecast could change the agenda as well, he said.

Radinovich agreed, saying legislators will have a better idea of what direction to take after the governor unveils his proposal for tax reform and after the February budget forecast is known.

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