The good, the bad and the yet to be done

Published 2:12 pm Saturday, May 26, 2012

Column: Rich Murray, Capitol Conversations

With the 2012 legislative session now in the books, I’d like to share my legislative perspective over the past two years.

Rich Murray

The good: my proudest moments

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• Meeting people. For the past two years I have run myself ragged meeting with constituents, community groups and community leaders to learn more about our area.

In my opinion, making these connections and being accessible to you is the most important part of my job, and the one I enjoy the most.

During last year’s state shutdown, I met with hundreds of residents, some of whom were about to be laid off, to simply listen so I could provide feedback to my peers in St. Paul. This was truly a humbling experience, but also one of the most beneficial for me to represent you.

• School reform. I’m proud of the relationship that I have developed with our local teachers and school administrators.

I was honored to have supported funding increases for all schools, as well as several new laws that reform our education system. We repealed the integration aid program and redistributed that money to the per-pupil formula to benefit every student across the state. We also relieved our school districts from many state-imposed mandates.

• Unemployment benefits. My first bill to be signed by Gov. Mark Dayton provided crucial help to many unemployed people in the state. I believe that the state plays an important role in giving people a hand-up, not a handout to help during these difficult times.

• Advocating for rural Minnesota. Whether it was working with the rural caucus, fighting for local government aid, or working with Albert Lea and the Coalition of Greater Minnesota Cities, it is important to have a strong advocate for Greater Minnesota’s priorities, and I am honored to help carry this banner.

•Paying attention to details. The detail work is truly important and I have developed many strong relationships with all parties and levels of government. These relationships allow me to utilize my strong business and finance background in making our state stronger.

For example, I worked hard on crafting the best possible outcome for the Vikings stadium. It was clear to me that the governor was willing to open the state checkbook to the Vikings and many in my own party would fight against any type of stadium.

Instead of gravitating to these extremes, I worked with a bipartisan group of legislators who made the deal with the Vikings better. In the end, it was this attention to detail and getting a better deal for the state that earned my yes vote.

The bad

• Lack of leadership. For two years, I have watched the extremes of both parties prevent the true reform of state government. We made solid progress once a budget agreement was reached last year. This year, however, election-year politics stalled our reform momentum.

• Failure to pass a tax bill. Gov. Dayton senselessly vetoed this bill twice. Homeowner property tax relief, property tax freezes for Main Street businesses, a Greater Minnesota internship grant program, and increased investments in established statewide job creation programs and many other provisions that were good for Greater Minnesota all were lost. Unfortunately, the governor appeared to choose politics over good policy.

• No local bonding. I was confident this would be the year we would secure bonding funds for the restoration of Fountain Lake in Albert Lea. To my extreme disappointment, the final bonding bill contained few local projects. Know that I’ll keep working hard on this plan next year to get the job done.

The yet-to-be done

• Long-term government reform. Minnesota has many costly and duplicative government programs. We must find a way to streamline these programs to help people succeed. Too often, all we hear from the extremes is to slash government funding on one end or create new programs from the other extreme. We need to find ways to make our current programs more focused so the recipients become productive members of society.

• Empower job growth. We need to find ways to give employers the confidence to invest in new jobs and new technology. The world is changing, and we need to adapt to succeed. I am afraid that if we maintain the status quo that our communities and families will suffer.

Thank you for this honor

In the months ahead, I will be traveling door to door in our legislative district to meet with you and hear more about how you want to improve state government in Minnesota. It has been a privilege to work on your behalf in St. Paul, and I look forward to talking with you this summer and fall.

Rich Murray, R-Albert Lea, is the state representative for House District 27A.