Rep. Murray gives session update

Published 4:27 pm Wednesday, April 20, 2011

House District 27A Rep. Rich Murray is optimistic about the rest of the legislative session after having completed the first 100 days.

Murray spoke to a crowd of about 60 people at a special school board meeting at 4 p.m Tuesday at Brookside Education Center. While he talked about general legislative issues, school finance was the main topic of discussion.

“I feel like I’m the right person at the right time in this position,” Murray said.

Rich Murray

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Murray introduced fellow representatives District 36B Rep. Pat Garofalo and District 49B Rep. Branden Petersen, who both are on the House Education Finance Committee. Murray said he’s stood up for fair funding in schools, nursing homes, agriculture and to fix roads and infrastructure in southern Minnesota.

“Local government aid is important to our community,” Murray said.

One major point Murray made was that government needs to be more sensible about spending money. He also said he felt legislators are doing the best they can to keep funding in the schools, and he hopes to stay away from pay cuts or freezes if at all possible.

“A lot of areas have seen tough budget cuts,” Murray said.

He said there’s more negotiation to do before the end of the session but that he’s confident the budgetary problems can be solved.

“It’s going to take a lot of effort and work,” Murray said.

Garofalo spoke to the crowd to say that he likes that people in Albert Lea are actively engaged in politics and like learning and listening.

“I’m impressed how civically engaged Albert Lea is,” Garofalo said.

Garofalo proceded to answer questions from the crowd, one of which asked if Albert Lea schools will receive less than smaller rural schools like Alden-Conger and Glenville-Emmons.

“Education finance is exceptionally complex,” Garofalo said.

He said Albert Lea won’t see less money but that smaller schools do receive some additional funding because they’ve been disproportionally impacted by a broken funding formula.

“It’s wrong and unfair, and it’s not working for greater Minnesota,” Garofalo said. “People have agreed we want to protect our classrooms.”

He said he hopes to work out a way to make funding to rural schools and metro schools more equal. Murray answered a question from the audience about whether taxes would be increased to make up for the state’s budget deficit. He said he wants to fix the state budget deficit, which doesn’t mean he wants to raise taxes but does mean there may need to be some cuts because government isn’t as efficient as it could be.

Other audience questions centered on special education funding. Petersen said costs for special education are “exploding,” and that there are many federal guidelines and little federal funding for it.

“There’s an increase because they’re doing a better job diagnosing it,” Petersen said.

Murray thanked those who came to the meeting and said he’s always available for questions or to talk about decisions he’s made.