Republicans pledge attention to rural areas

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, June 18, 2002

Republican candidates for the November election visited Albert Lea Monday as a part of three-day barnstorming caravan following a long endorsement convention last weekend.

A crowd of GOP supporters welcomed the candidates: Tim Pawlenty for Governor, Mary Kiffmeyer for State Secretary, Patti Awada for State Auditor and Tom Kelly for Attorney General, in the courthouse.

Pawlenty stressed that GOP leadership in the government would bring growth and opportunity in the rural area.

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&uot;We need job creation and economic development in greater Minnesota,&uot; said Pawlenty. &uot;We need to intervene boldly and aggressively not only by reducing taxes and regulations statewide. But there is a part of the state that needs special attention.&uot;

Referring to his background &045; raised in a working-class family in South St. Paul &045; Pawlenty presented his experience of having a meatpacking plant shut down in his hometown. &uot;It was not different from some of the challenges you see in Albert Lea,&uot; he said.

Pawlenty attributed businesses moving to other states to an indecisive state bureaucracy, and revealed his plan to designate some regions in rural Minnesota as tax-free zones.

&uot;We can have not only agriculture as a backbone of greater Minnesota, which is important, but a diversified economy making other jobs available for the next generation,&uot; he said.

As for a recent downgraded evaluation on the state financial status by a Wall Street rating firm, Pawlenty said, &uot;We were worried that they were actually downgrading the status of our bond rating. But, all they did was downgrade the economic forecast slightly. So, that was actually a victory.&uot;

On the state budget, Pawlenty said he’ll take a wait-and-see approach.

&uot;We don’t know the size of (next year’s) deficit or whether it is going to be a deficit until next February’s forecast,&uot; Pawlenty said, and he pledged to manage any financial woes without raising taxes.