As 2011 Session Ends, Hard work is Ahead to Fill Budget Gap

The 2011 legislative session has ended and Minnesotans are still waiting for a compromise deal to close the $5 billion budget deficit. I’m disappointed that the GOP leadership was not willing to negotiate during the regular session with Gov. Dayton to find a reasonable solution to the state’s fiscal crisis. Now we are headed for a special session and possible government shutdown.
I believe there could have been a fair and equitable conclusion to this session that would have benefited the citizens of Minnesota. The governor’s budget proposal reflects the tough choices that need to be made in times of crisis: he’s proposed to cut spending by nearly $2 billion. But his proposal is also fair and responsible –balancing the budget through a balanced approach of targeted cuts and new revenue while protecting 98 percent of Minnesotans from property or income tax increases. The governor has already demonstrated his willingness to compromise, moving twice toward the middle since his initial budget in February. Republicans have not moved one dollar off their position since last November. Now it’s time for the Republican leadership to put aside the campaign rhetoric and divisive social agenda to find common ground with the governor for the benefit of our state.
Obviously, the budget deficit dominated the legislative session. However, other issues important to Minnesotans were also debated: K-12 education, higher education and transportation funding, as well as small business and senior citizen concerns. I authored numerous bills to benefit our schools, roads, transit system, main street businesses and seniors. As a member of the minority party, it was hard to get many of these provisions passed. Nevertheless, the bills I introduced were done so in the best interests of the people I represent.
Legislation I worked on this session:
-A change in law that would allow a school district to use certain funds to cover costs of closing a school building, including storage and moving costs. This bill was included in the Omnibus Education bill, which was vetoed this week;
-The “Four Firkins” bill which would allow locally-owned liquor stores to sell merchandise (such as t-shirts) emblazoned with their logos. This bill was not included in a larger Senate bill, even though the House of Representatives did approve the measure;
-A bill to change provisions in condominium association contracts to protect consumers;
-Legislation to redirect $700,000 in unused bonding funds to provide noise mitigation at the St. Louis Park Railroad Yard;
-A bill to establish a Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics residential high school;
-This Old Shop bill to provide tax abatement for main street businesses who reinvest in their building infrastructure;
-Bonding funds for preliminary engineering for the Southwest Light Rail Corridor; and
-Continued work that began in 2010 session on debt buyer/consumer protections.

I am proud of my successful legislation that will allow juveniles who are being tried as adults to be held in secure juvenile facilities as they await trial, which was included in a public safety bill and another piece of legislation that revised the common interest community (condominium) laws on behalf of the State Bar Association.
Also, as lead Democrat on the Judiciary and Public Safety Budget and Policy Committee, I served the role of chief accountability officer in the Senate for all proposed legislation involving the Departments of Corrections, Public Safety and Human Rights, as well as the courts, and a variety of other policy initiatives involving crimes and certain civil areas.
This has been a difficult legislative session and now we await a special session to end the budget stalemate. I urge the GOP leadership to resume discussions with the governor, abandon their rigidity in favor of flexibility, and get back to the work of the people. I will continue my efforts on behalf of my constituents in Senate District 44.
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Senator Ron Latz
Ron Latz represents District 46, which includes portions of Hennepin County in the western Twin Cities metropolitan area.

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