Column: Franken should be doing more for state

By CHRIS DAHLBERG DULUTH -- During Sen. Al Franken's nearly five years representing us in Washington, D.C., Minnesotans have appreciated how he's projected an image of seriousness in his transition from comedy star to a senator quietly going abou...


DULUTH - During Sen. Al Franken’s nearly five years representing us in Washington, D.C., Minnesotans have appreciated how he’s projected an image of seriousness in his transition from comedy star to a senator quietly going about his work. I commend him for that approach.
Yet Sen. Franken is often far too quiet when it comes to crucial issues affecting Minnesota. Those include these five important issues on which the senator could be making a big difference, particularly where he serves on applicable Senate committees:
1. Mining. While Sen. Franken’s support of the Critical Minerals Policy Act of 2013 looks good on paper, the Act’s vague wording does not identify if Minnesota minerals are included. It also doesn’t bring PolyMet any closer to creating the many hundreds of high-paying, new mining jobs our citizens need.
Supporting that Act is simply allowing Sen. Franken to delay sharing his true position on non-ferrous mining in northern Minnesota. He should tell us where he stands and what he’s doing as a member of the U.S. Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources to bring this important, safe form of mining.
2. Shipping. Many of the 11,500 Minnesota and Wisconsin jobs supported by cargo moving through the Port of Duluth-Superior are in jeopardy because of a backlog of Great Lakes dredging needed to keep America competitive in global shipping.
It troubles me to see jobs put at risk because $7 billion of funds dedicated to dredging - much of them coming from taxes on imports entering the U.S. - remain tied up due to a cumbersome, federal bureaucratic process. Why isn’t Sen. Franken helping clear this logjam?
3. Fond-du-Luth Casino. As a member of the Committee on Indian Affairs, Sen. Franken was in a perfect position to resolve the bitter (and expensive) dispute between the City of Duluth and the Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa that has put millions of dollars of casino revenues in limbo.
Sen. Franken’s unwillingness to help has unnecessarily pitted two communities against each other.
Eventually the courts will settle this matter, but long term damage will have been done that should have.
4. Health Care. Although he recently distanced himself from the Obamacare rollout, the senator has been one of the disastrous Affordable Care Act’s most enthusiastic supporters. This is despite a major portion of it being funded by burdensome new taxes on Medtronic and other companies that make up Minnesota’s world-renowned medical device industry.
What does Sen. Franken say to millions of Americans when they ask why their insurance premiums have increased and the health plans they depended on have disappeared?
5. Family Budgets. America’s deplorable $17 trillion debt isn’t the U.S. government’s debt. It’s paid by you and me, to the tune of about $54,500 for every man, woman and child in Minnesota. Had I written this a year ago, that figure would have been $51,100 – meaning the already-outrageous national debt increased another $3,400 for you and each member of your family this past year. But that’s what happens when our national debt increases $2.6 billion each day.
Sen. Franken certainly didn’t cause all of that massive debt. But he’s done little to reduce it. Unfortunately, he’s consistently demonstrated a penchant for more government.
Sen. Franken has had nearly five years to make a positive difference on these and other issues. It’s time for him to tell Minnesotans why he hasn’t.

Chris Dahlberg is a St. Louis County Commissioner and candidate for U.S. Senate.

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