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State must do more with less, and better

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In 2011, Minnesota faces an historic budget deficit of a projected shortfall of $6 billion to $8 billion. The deficit represents about 15 percent of our entire state budget. This problem will only grow if we use borrowing or delayed payments to push out the problem into the future.

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It will not be possible to raise enough taxes to cover a deficit of this magnitude. No single solution fixes the structural problem.

It is time to do more with less, and do it better.

The State and Local Government Operations Reform, Technology and Elections Committee will have hearings this summer to propose changes for the next governor and Legislature. We will begin by looking inward at the state Legislature and expand to all areas of state government.

As was done in 2008, the committee will review the Minnesota House rules for ways to continue to improve the ability of the public to participate in the legislative process. As an example, we will consider deadlines for introduction of bills and committee action in order to ensure a full understanding of the impact of legislation before it becomes law.

In addition, we will examine ways to make the most of our limited time and allow the public to participate in the legislative process. Again, the purpose will be to ensure a full understanding of the impact of legislation before it becomes law.

We must also consider whether the size of the Legislature should be reduced. Minnesota currently has the fifth largest state legislature in the United States despite being 21st in total population. With redistricting coming up in 2012, this is the time to more appropriately align our state Legislature to Minnesota's new economy.

Restructuring Minnesota's government services in this new economy will best be done by working with those who are able to devise and implement change. Our state and local governments provide vital services that preserve Minnesota's quality of life. Police officers and firefighters keep our neighborhoods safe. Schools and universities educate our students. Roads and bridges are maintained to help us safely get where we need to be.

In order to protect these needs, we must address our structural budget deficit by having these groups give the Legislature and governor their best solutions to address the limited resources of Minnesota's new economy.

It is time to do more with less, and do it better.

Agendas and hearings will be posted this summer and the public is welcome to attend.

Gene Pelowski DFL-Winona, is a member of the Minnesota House and is chairman of House State and Local Government Operations Reform, Technology and Elections committee.

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