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In closing weeks of legislature, both sides need to focus on jobs

From the Minneapolis Labor Review, April 29, 2011

By Bill McCarthy, President, Minneapolis Regional Labor Federation

As the Labor Review went to press April 20, the Minnesota legislature was in the middle of a one-week recess for Passover and Easter. The recess began with both Republican and DFL legislators and Governor Mark Dayton far apart in reaching the compromises needed to balance the state budget and make progress on what ought to be Minnesota priority number one: creating jobs.

We at the Minneapolis Regional Labor Federation took advantage of the recess to organize constituent meetings with key legislators back home in their districts. These meetings included sessions in Litchfield with Republican Representative Dean Urdahl (House District 18B), in Anoka  with Republican Representative Jim Abeler (House District 48B), in Mound with Republican Representative Steve Smith (House District 33A), and in Plymouth with DFL Senator Terri Bonoff (Senate District 43). (See story).

These lawmakers all are moderates who have the potential to help break the partisan logjam at the legislature by standing up for common sense compromises that promote the common good.

The meetings we planned allowed union members to share their concerns and priorities with the people who represent them at the legislature.

Our message: we need to do the hard work necessary, even when we disagree, to find solutions for Minnesota’s working families. Through respectful debate, we ought to be able to come together around a basic agenda for the middle class that includes good living wage jobs, safe neighborhoods, good schools and affordable health care.

Yes, the state faces a serious budget deficit. Yes, we need to make cuts, but we shouldn’t be cutting funding for teachers, nurses, police and other frontline public employees — folks who perform vital services in our communities and contribute to our quality of life.

We need a balanced approach to the deficit — measured cuts along with new revenues. And the fairest way to obtain new revenues is to address disparities in the state’s taxes by asking the top earners to pay their fair share.

We’re looking for leadership from both parties to come together and compromise in a way that puts people to work, maintains our vital services, and keeps our communities strong.

The legislature’s scheduled adjournment date is May 23. Now is the critical time for you to contact your state representative and state senator and urge a focus on jobs and a balanced approach to balancing the budget.

House information: 651-296-2146.

Senate information: 651-296-0504.


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