Entenza, Sailer brief officials on session accomplishments
Bipartisan efforts allowed the Minnesota Legislature to pass a bonding bill and complete the 2006 session on time.
"The 2006 legislative session set a more civil tone, which was very important for us in Minnesota," said House Minority Leader Rep. Matt Entenza, DFL-St. Paul, comparing this year's session with recent years. He added that the legislators could be "disagreeing without being disagreeable."
Rep. Brita Sailer, DFL-Park Rapids, agreed. She and Entenza stopped in Bemidji on Monday afternoon to brief Mayor Richard Lehmann, Bemidji State University President Jon Quistgaard, Northwest Technical College-Bemidji Provost Charles Giammona and other interested parties about the results of the bonding bill and other legislative action. Entenza made a tour which included Alexandria, East Grand Forks and Duluth, as well as Bemidji.
"I think Bemidji did very well in the bonding," Sailer said.
Bemidji received $3 million for planning, design and land acquisition for a regional events center; $1.5 million for Paul Bunyan Trail land acquisition; $500,000 for NTC science lab and workforce initiatives; $700,000 for BSU Sattgast Hall new construction and remodeling; and $2.5 million for BSU and NTC maintenance.
"The results for northern Minnesota were very, very gratifying," Entenza said.
He gave Rep. Frank Moe, DFL-Bemidji, who was unable to attend the briefing, credit for successfully carrying the Bemidji projects through. He recalled a visit to Bemidji when he said Moe wouldn't let him out of the car until they had toured all the potential events center sites.
But Entenza also applauded community members who worked in a bipartisan way to convince legislators of the area's needs.
However, Sailer and Entenza expressed disappointment in the areas of school funding, health care and permanent property tax reduction.
Entenza said Minnesotans have endured close to $2 billion worth of property tax increases since Gov. Tim Pawlenty took office. He said Pawlenty offered no funding for permanent property tax reduction; the Republicans offered a one-time rebate; and the DFLers offered a plan to return full restoration of Local Government Aid to the 2003 level.
"Stadiums were winners this session, but property taxpayers, schools and those struggling with rising health care costs lost out," Entenza said. "It's clear that the priorities of the governor and House Republicans are out of whack. This session, we were able to find a way to fund nearly $1 billion worth of new stadiums, but provided $0 for classrooms, $0 on expanding health care and $0 in new transportation spending."
Entenza, who is running for state attorney general, said he was stepping down as House minority leader to be replaced by Rep. Margaret Anderson Kelliher, DFL-Minneapolis.