Schwab: Ventura shorted rural areas

Published 12:00 am Friday, February 9, 2001


Friday, February 09, 2001

Sen. Grace Schwab, R-Albert Lea, got a closer look at Gov. Jesse Ventura’s budget proposals this week and decided they weren’t too friendly to rural Minnesota.

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Schwab’s concerns begin with the governor’s sales tax plan. Schwab, who sits on the Sales and Income Tax Budget division of the Tax Committee, said she saw a list of exactly what non-essential services would be added to the sales tax rolls. It included sewer service, funeral services, baby care products, feminine hygiene products, YMCA memberships, cross country ski passes for public trails, institutional meals, sacramental wine sold to religious organizations, admission to school-sponsored events, fund-raising sales by non-profit organizations, candy sales by organizations and admissions to charity golf tournaments.

&uot;The list is lengthy and makes little sense,&uot; said Schwab. &uot;The broadening of the categories really increases the complexity of an already complicated system.&uot;

Schwab said the list also includes some items specific to rural Minnesota such as horses, used farm tires, and the operations of soybean processing facilities.

&uot;In general, I don’t think this entire budget is rural friendly,&uot; said Schwab. &uot;I have had many individuals and groups come forward with many needs that were not met.&uot;

Schwab said the more she studies the inner workings of the budget process, including Jesse’s &uot;new approach,&uot; she finds numerous inequities between the metro area and rural Minnesota.

&uot;I think we need a systemic change in how programs and resources are dispersed throughout the state,&uot; she said.

One area Schwab sees as an example of that inequity is transportation. On the Transportation Committee, discussion revolves around metro issues, particularly light rail and commuter rail, she said.

&uot;The metropolitan area certainly has needs that must be addressed and they are expensive, but rural Minnesota should not have to continually take a back seat to Minneapolis and St. Paul,&uot; Schwab said. Education is another area with inequities, said Schwab. Because the formula for compensatory funding is based on free and reduced lunch counts, southern Minnesota school districts get shorted, Schwab said.

The districts with the most compensatory funding include Red Lake, Kelliher, Deer River, Cass Lake, LaPorte, Nevis, Pine Point, Bagley, Mahnomen, Waubun, and Minneapolis. Schwab said these districts each receive an average of more than $500 per pupil, twice as much as many southern Minnesota districts.

&uot;As we look at this huge inequity, it becomes evident that it,s time for a redistribution of this fund,&uot; said Schwab.

In other Senate happenings, Schwab was an author of a bill last week that would increase penalties for gasoline theft, including a driver’s license suspension. Gas theft is a problem that costs some local gas stations more than $30,000 per year, said Schwab.