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Olseen-Kalin Column: Understanding Your Priorities for a Balanced Budget

Friday, February 20th, 2009 at 6:45 am

kalinolseen2Minnesota lawmakers are wrestling with more than just a record deficit at the State Capitol this session; we’re looking at decisions that will impact the lives of all Minnesotans for years to come. In a way it’s hard to fathom just how huge the deficit is. $4.8 billion dollars is a lot of money, but what does that mean in the lives of Minnesotans? According to nonpartisan House Research if the Minnesota Legislature:

# Cut all children’s health care and

($139 million)

# Shut down 20% of nursing homes in the state and

($191 million)

# Released all the prisoners and

($950 million)

# Let all the sex offenders go and

($127 million)

# Close all the state parks and

($52 million)

# Eliminate Meals on Wheels for seniors and

($7.1 million)

# Shut down 10 state college campuses and

($146 million)

* Shut down the Departments of Health, Public Safety, Transportation, and the rest of state government

($3.45 billion)

That would add up to $5 billion. But all those devastating cuts still wouldn’t be enough to balance the budget because the deficit is growing every day. Early estimates indicated the shortfall could grow to as much as $7 billion when the next budget forecast is released March 3 – representing 20% of the state’s biennial budget.

The enormity of the problem Minnesota is facing right now cannot be understated. There are many difficult decisions to be made in the days and weeks ahead, requiring the shared sacrifices of all our state’s citizens. But more than sacrifices, we all need to share in the solution.

As your legislators, we take your concerns seriously and rely on your input to make the best decisions possible on behalf of our communities. Fellow lawmakers feel the same way. For that reason, the Minnesota Legislature is taking the budget on the road this month, to gather input from citizens in every corner of the state about how best to balance the budget.

A bipartisan, bicameral legislative committee will be in Forest Lake on Thursday, February 26 to discuss the budget with area citizens. Starting at 6:30pm, the meeting will be held at Forest Lake City Hall at 220 North Lake Street. All residents of Chisago County and the surrounding area are encouraged to attend. You can also contact us directly with your comments, questions, and concerns.

Finding solutions to this massive deficit will not be easy – it will likely come with a lot of pain for Minnesotans across the state. That’s why it’s so important we hear your suggestions on how to move forward. Understanding your concerns and priorities will be critical in the difficult work ahead. We look forward to hearing from you.

Jeremy Kalin     Rick Olseen

State Representative    State Senator

District 17B     District 17

(651) 296-5377    (651) 296-5419

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