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Column: Capitol has diminshed rural priorities

Would it make sense to you to put a Minneapolis lawmaker in charge of rural Minnesota funding priorities, particularly if you gave her the option to spend that money elsewhere?

As many of you are aware, I try to live my life, operate my business, and serve as your state representative using some common sense priorities. But the question above clearly breaks those rules, and yet our new House majority is going to do it anyway.

Our new Minnesota House speaker - from Minneapolis - recently expanded the number of committees that operate in the Minnesota House. He also eliminated one: the Agriculture and Rural Economies Finance Committee.

This is the group that traditionally crafts the budget for ag interests in Greater Minnesota, and is usually comprised of members who outside of the metro area. Because of this, it is typically the least partisan committee in state government.

What our Minneapolis speaker also chose to do was give all ag funding discretion to the chairwoman of a House environment finance committee. She also lives in Minneapolis and is known for voting against finance proposals for ag and rural development.

In essence, she will be given a pot of money and told to distribute it as she sees fit among ag and environmental programs around the state.

How do you suppose this is going to work out?

First off, I'm a bit upset that we've expanded the number of House committees. Not only does it increase inefficiency, but removes us from a successful path that's been working for the past three economic forecasts.

Now, they're being made unreasonable. Out of 29 committees, 22 committee chairs live inside the metro area, two come from Duluth, and one from Rochester. This means there are only four committee chairs from what is truly rural Minnesota.

What's worse is one of those four is from Austin and chairs an agriculture policy committee, meaning she would be the perfect choice to fight for and distribute ag and rural resources.

Agriculture is the backbone of Minnesota, and its importance is often overlooked. No one can dispute its economic value to our state, our region, and our country. We should be spending more of our time stressing its importance, not diminishing it by putting a Minneapolis environmentalist in charge of its funding interests.

Last week, the House voted to put her in charge of ag funding interests, but the majority shot it down, keeping rural Minnesota's priorities in the hands of a Minneapolis environmentalist.

What bothers me the most is that our new leadership could have recognized this was a move that did not make sense, admitted they were wrong, and simply made the change. Instead, it is trying to rationalize and justify the decision instead of correcting the mistake.

I believe the new House majority missed a huge opportunity during the first week of session. They could have shown Minnesotans that party interests were going to take a back seat to common sense this session, and allowed a rural Democrat to chair a combined House agriculture and rural economy policy and finance committee. It would have been an easy

change that would have played out well throughout Minnesota.

Instead they chose to say "we're right," and continued the partisan political games that so often dominate the headlines at the state Capitol.

Tim Kelly, R-Red Wing, can be reached at 651-380-4345 or