State Rep. Bernie Lieder, DFL-Crookston, column: Session's priorities all link to jobs
By Bernie Lieder CROOKSTON -- The 2010 legislative session begins Thursday. There are many different goals and objectives, but all of them are joined by our top task: respond to the economic challenges facing Minnesota families by creating jobs a...
By Bernie Lieder
CROOKSTON -- The 2010 legislative session begins Thursday. There are many different goals and objectives, but all of them are joined by our top task: respond to the economic challenges facing Minnesota families by creating jobs and expediting our economic recovery.
We have made some progress on jobs; in fact, unemployment rates have improved in Marshall, Pennington, Polk and Red Lake counties compared to a year ago. Nevertheless, jobs, hours and wages still lag behind prerecession levels.
In the short term, most economists agree that best way the Legislature can spur new jobs is through targeted investments in public infrastructure. That is why the Legislature must move fast on a capital investment or bonding bill that emphasizes refurbishment or repair projects that are shovel-ready.
Based on conservative estimates, a $1 billion bonding bill could create 8,000 to 10,000 jobs statewide.
The timing for a bonding bill of this size makes economic sense because it lets us capitalize on low interest rates and an economic climate in which actual construction bids have come in a third lower than estimated. Restoring and repairing local roads, bridges, higher education buildings and outdated wastewater treatment facilities can help strengthen northwestern Minnesota as a region as well give a jolt to our economy.
Jobs -- in both the short and long term -- must be the lens we use to look at our state budget shortfall.
It's time to face our state budget head-on and stop shifting responsibility onto local governments, property taxpayers and students.
Case in point: The governor recently delayed more than $430 million in state payments to local school districts to cover our state's negative cash flow balance. This comes in addition to the governor's $1.2 billion cut to schools that came in the form of his unpaid unallotment funding delay.
As a result, many districts will be forced to dip into their cash reserves or borrow to cover their own operating expenses. In essence, this punishes districts that have built reserves through fiscal prudence by forcing them to bail out the state and pay for its short-term budget fix.
Managing our state budget during the deepest recession since the Great Depression isn't easy, but we should do it in a more straightforward manner. And given the job shortage of educated workers coming down the pike, it's not economically wise to keep dipping into the pockets of the students who soon will represent the work force of our new economy.
Hospitals, nursing homes and other care providers are some of the largest job providers in Minnesota. That is why it's critical that we find a way to reform or restore a health care program vetoed by the governor last year, a program that provides basic health care to 35,000 of the poorest and sickest Minnesotans.
Some hospitals already have shed jobs in preparation of the increase in uncompensated care associated with the elimination of this program, which will expire April 1. The 35,000 Minnesotans who use this program when they go to the hospital aren't going away when this program is eliminated.
We need a solution that won't result in more job losses when our economy is showing signs of recovery.
Lieder, a Democrat, represents District 1B in the Minnesota House.