Archived Story

Legislative session brings new challenges

Published 6:16am Sunday, January 6, 2013

Column: Senate Report, by Dan Sparks

The 2013 legislative session begins Tuesday: the date new lawmakers will be sworn into office and the work of balancing the 2014-15 state budget begins.

Dan Sparks

Going into the session, we are facing a $1.1 billion deficit for the next two-year budget cycle that begins July 1. If you consider the borrowed $1.1 billion that still must be paid back to school districts across the state and the $900 million in inflationary cost increases, the state really faces about a $3 billion cash deficit. Clearly, this is where our main work lies for the upcoming session.

The word “deficit” has become far too common when discussing our state’s financial situation, and this year, my colleagues and I are committed to ending this perpetual cash shortage. We are ready to buckle down and have an honest, thorough conversation about where are state is at. What does our tax system look like? Is it fair, efficient and set up to attract new employers and help our Minnesota families succeed? Where can we make improvements that will benefit everyone?

On the spending side of the equation, we need to find areas to save money. Are there inefficiencies that we can correct, redundancies that can be eliminated or over-spending that needs to be reigned in? In areas where we must commit substantial financial resources, is the money being directed to the best-possible locations? Our committee chairpersons will analyze all of the money being spent in their jurisdictions and make sure it has a purpose before committing additional resources for the next budget cycle.

Speaking of committee chairpersons, I am very honored to have been named chairman of the Jobs, Agriculture and Rural Development Committee in the Senate.

It is my first time being a chairman of a committee, and I can’t think of a more appropriate one to fit the district that I represent. Agriculture is a key part of our region’s economy and, of course, job-creation and economic development are two things that we must prioritize right now. I’m excited for the opportunities this position will bring.

As chairman, I look forward to engaging experts and citizens from across the state to help us devise the best policies. I’ve already begun meeting with local folks on these issues, and I’d like to publicly invite anyone with interest or experience in these issues to contact me either at home or at the Capitol. Your input will be invaluable this year.

You may follow activity in this and other committees at www.senate.mn. The Jobs, Agriculture and Rural Development Committee has a separate link, which will show committee action and legislation being considered. This is where you also will find daily updates on full Senate activities, as well as be able to watch archived and live Senate floor sessions and committee hearings.

To contact me personally, my email address is sen.dan.sparks@senate.mn, and phone number remains 651-296-9248. My Capitol office is Room 328 Capitol, 75 Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Blvd., St. Paul, MN 55155. Although, I plan to be back in the district as much as possible between now and the end of session in May, so feel free to contact me about meeting locally if that’s easiest.

During my past terms in the legislature, I have learned that the most important part of succeeding at this job is keeping the lines of communication open. I welcome any and all input — good and bad — as I always learn from the things I hear from folks back home. Thank you for the opportunity to serve; I look forward to the session ahead.

 

Dan Sparks, DFL-Austin, is the state senator for District 27.