Guest Column: Now is the time to work together for common good

Published 9:05 am Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Guest Column by Joseph Brown Sr. and Robin Brown

Joseph Brown Sr. and Robin Brown are members of the Freeborn County DFL Party and live in Moscow Township.

Last Saturday we toured the refurbished Minnesota Capitol. As we walked the floors of the empty Minnesota Senate and House of Representatives, we were in awe of the beauty and history the chambers radiate. We did not see Democrat or Republican desks. We simply viewed the shiny hardwood desks of 134 representatives and 67 senators — the work setting for the legislators who will be deciding the future of Minnesota.

Joseph Brown

Joseph Brown

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As our newly elected federal and state officials begin their work, our hope is that they remember that there are many policies citizens agree on. We all want quality education for our children, safe drinking water, affordable health care, safe roads and bridges and the opportunity to make a living that will support ourselves and our families. We all want to preserve and extend the quality of life we know and love. And while we want these assets, we also want our elected officials to be wise as they use our tax dollars to pay for these assets.

At the federal level, we remain optimistic. President-elect Trump has promised to spend one trillion dollars on infrastructure, increase military spending, repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, build a wall on our southern border and have Mexico pay for it, deport 11 million undocumented immigrants, drain the swamp in Washington, D.C., of political operatives, cut taxes, save the coal industry and balance the federal budget. Now that Congress and our new president-elect are from the same political party, there is no excuse why they cannot fulfill each of the promises they made during their election. And even though we may not agree with the promises that were made, we expect results. We expect our president-elect in concert with a Senate and House of the same party, to keep their promises and for the American people to hold our elected officials accountable.

At the state level, we feel fortunate to live in Minnesota. Our quality of life is second to none.  We would not trade what we have here with any other state.  Our economy is strong, our K-12 schools and colleges and universities are good and our natural resources are plentiful.

Robin Brown

Robin Brown

Still, we need to prepare for the future. The demographics of our state are changing. Our population base is growing older, our new citizens are more racially and culturally diverse, our poverty rate is increasing and we are experiencing a shortage of qualified workers. Changes offer both opportunities and challenges and, fortunately, we are all in this together.

Minnesota currently has a very low unemployment rate while our manufacturing base needs more skilled workers. Is it time for high schools and community colleges to reinstate vocational programs geared to fill those needs? Our current welfare system penalizes individuals who obtain a job by reducing their social service benefits dollar per dollar. Is it time to restructure our welfare system so that there is an incentive to obtain employment?  Our public schools are teaching populations of great diversity: economic, emotional, cultural, etc. Is it time to move away from the agricultural school year and restructure the public school calendar so we can teach students more than 15 percent of the calendar year (7 hours per day times 174 student days)?

When we consider 30 years off; increased health care cost, disrepair of roads and bridges, lakes and rivers polluted with chemicals and the increase in domestic violence and gun crimes, we must task ourselves to find both the solutions and the dollars to finance the solutions.

Might it be time to consider restructuring our tax system?  Would Minnesota be in a stronger economic position if we considered changes in the tax system that could not only increase corporate profits, but result in higher incomes for workers? Could reducing or eliminating corporate taxes be part of the answer? Could collecting a lower, but broader base of consumption taxes be another part of the answer?

The questions are difficult, but they need to be asked, discussed and answered in the practical, nonpartisan manner that Minnesotans are known for. These are Minnesota issues that will set the stage for the next generation.  Now is the time to work together for the common good.  Now is the time for results.