Local lawmakers provide updates
What a difference a year makes, state Rep. Tim Kelly told Red Wing service club and chamber members Thursday.
Last year, lawmakers and the governor came to loggerheads over the two-year budget that led to a government shutdown. With a couple weeks to go in the 2012 legislative session, the state's financial situation has improved to the point that there's a growing surplus. He said that is because scaled-back government spending is working.
So much so, Kelly said, that the state will have $550 million in reserves and could afford to repay school districts $100,000 million of the $2.4 billion they have coming in delayed payments. The former Red Wing School Board member made sure Thursday's crowd knew of his disappointment that politics resulted in the governor vetoing that repayment.
"I don't believe it's fiscally irresponsible to pay back our debts, especially when we're trending in such a positive way," he said, saying he hopes repayment still can happen.
Kelly and Sen. John Howe, both Republican lawmakers from Red Wing, addressed a meeting of Noontime Kiwanis with joint sponsorship by Red Wing Area Chamber of Commerce, League of Women Voters and other clubs. The two presented their legislative update to a packed Mississippi Room in the St. James Hotel.
Each spoke for seven or eight minutes before fielding questions on hot political topics. Leading the list were silica sand mining, proposed marriage and voter I.D. constitutional amendments, online sales tax, expansion of gaming to fund a Vikings stadium and lifting the state moratorium on siting nuclear plants.
"I'm a strong advocate of doing things legislatively," Howe said in response to a question on whether lawmakers may be shirking responsibility by governing the constitutional amendment. At least two amendments will go before voters Nov. 6.
But Howe added, "I think when people feel strongly, you put it to the voters."
Silica sand mining came up twice. Goodhue County is in the midst of a one-year moratorium on all mining expansion while a committee studies the current ordinance and environmental, health and transportation related issues to mining silica, a product in abundance here and used in extracting natural gas and oil.
"I think everyone may be affected by it," Kelly said of mining, adding that his home is within a half-mile of a potential site. He advocates local control.
When asked how citizens should go about tackling the issues, Kelly advised them to learn from Goodhue area residents and the wind energy debate. He also told them to investigate all sides of the silica sand issue. Stick to the facts.
"You have to be educated," he said.