Minn. Legislative Breakfast
WORTHINGTON -- The central message from Saturday's Legislative Breakfast seemed to be that everyone needs to work together to get through the economic crisis.
Rep. Doug Magnus, R-Slayton, Rep. Rod Hamilton, R-Mountain Lake, and Sen. Jim Vickerman, DFL-Tracy were at the Worthington Country Club Saturday morning to answer questions and listen to the concerns of constituents over breakfast.
All three men said they have heard variations of "Cut that program, not mine" from people they have spoken with, and all three know that when cuts are made, people will be hurt.
"I never imagined there were this many entities and people dependant on government funding," Magnus said.
Until the next budget forecast comes out March 3, there are more questions than answers about how big the state's deficit is and how it will be handled.
"We're trying to decipher the stimulus package," Magnus stated. "It is going to take some time to sort through."
Hamilton said he and the others are "all ears" when it comes to listening to ideas and possible solutions.
"We need your help to prioritize and get through this mess," he explained. "We realize that everybody is going to have to be part of the solution and feel part of the pain."
Vickerman also asked for suggestions.
"I don't know what direction we can go in," he admitted. "We're all going to have to get together on this. We need to put political things aside and work together."
During other recent listening sessions, they have heard concerns about the court system, LGA, school testing and more. There has been a lot of discussion on mandates, health care, consolidating services and job growth. But until the budget forecast is released, the governor's proposal will remain, just that - a proposal, Hamilton said.
Magnus reported receiving a hundred emails a day from people who want their problems fixed immediately, but said he and the others are overwhelmed with the financial situation, which has to be handled to balance the budget.
"Unfortunately, that hinders our ability to sit down and figure out other things," he stated. "And with all the focus on the budget, I'm having a hard time figuring out where we're going to be in the long term."
Magnus referred to the stimulus package as a "bail out" package that is "a misguided, short term attempt to continue business as usual," and said it forces officials to do things that are not in the best interest of the state.
When asked what kind of message the people should take to the streets after the meeting, Hamilton had three things to say about the "tough road ahead."
"Number one, we need your help," he stated. "Number two, we are all in this together, and number three, we care."
When talk turned to the adoption of California emission standards, Magnus was adamant in his refusal to go along with the idea.
"If that bill passes, we as legislators abdicate all response to some board in California," he expressed. "And who knows what those California dreamers are going to come up with?"
He called the bill "silly" and said people ought to get out of the environmentalists' pockets.
"I don't think you elected me and Rod and Jim to do something that stupid," he said of the bill, garnering applause from the audience.
"California is not a friendly state," Vickerman added. "It is full of actors and big shots."