New legislative session begins Jan. 24

The 2012 legislative session begins on Tuesday, January 24. As always, I look forward to representing the people of Southern Minnesota at the Capitol to make sure our families, businesses, school kids, seniors and hospitals get a fair shake. My key priorities for 2012 are to continue my work on policies to help put people back to work and pass a reasonable bonding bill. In addition to my priorities, there are several issues we should address such as finding solutions to reverse the property tax increases passed last session and paying back the billions borrowed from our schools.

Traditionally, the first year of the biennium sets the two-year budget and this year–the second year of the biennium¬–is supposed to be focused on bonding, policy and making adjustments to the two-year state budget. In regards to bonding, I am hopeful several local projects are included in the final bonding package, including an important $7.5 million request to clean up Fountain Lake and remove watershed sediment.

In addition, there is a $3 million request for Riverland Community College in Albert Lea to renovate classroom space and a $13.5 million request for the Hormel Institute in Austin for research and technology upgrades. The world-renowned Hormel Institute is vying for bonding money to help pay for a new building to expand their research and bioscience capabilities. What’s even more exciting is this bonding project would add about 120 new jobs for our area–construction jobs at the site and permanent jobs at the institute.
In addition to bonding, I am hopeful we can find creative ways to address the statewide property tax increases passed last session. I voted against this short-sighted decision which has increased taxes on almost every Minnesota homeowner and business. I think we can find reforms in our current tax system to deal with this problem and look to other resourceful ways to bring more money to the state budget.

As most of you know, I’ve been a strong proponent of finding creative ways to help raise money for state needs. For example, I firmly believe passing a Racino bill would be a step in the right direction. We could use Racino funds to help pay back our schools, hold down or reduce property taxes, and invest in economic development policies to put more people back to work.

Republican leadership has indicated they want a short session in 2012; starting at the end of January and adjourning in late April or early May. Legally we must adjourn sine die on May 21. Whatever the date of adjournment, I am hopeful we can rollup our sleeves, work together, and get our job done in a timely and cooperative fashion.

It is an honor to represent Southern Minnesota as your State Senator. Please don’t hesitate to contact me with any questions or concerns. I can be reached at Room 19 State Office Building, St. Paul, MN 55155. My phone number is 651-296-9248 and email is sen.dan.sparks@senate.mn.
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Senator Dan Sparks
Dan Sparks represents District 27, which includes all or portions of Dodge, Faribault, Freeborn, Mower, and Steele counties in the southeastern part of the state.

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