St. Paul - In his fifth annual State of the State address, Governor Pawlenty called for a better Minnesota: Better government, better energy, better education and better health care, encouraging legislators to work to renew trust in our state government and provide the improvements needed for a better future for the state.
The governor encouraged us to remember that better government doesn’t mean bigger government and with each bill introduction to ask whether or not taxpayers get good value for the taxes we pay. I believe we legislators must keep the promises made during the campaign to live within our means, so I encourage you to pay careful attention to what proposals legislators bring forth that require additional and new funding and let us know what you think.
As you can imagine, tax relief will be a number one priority, especially in the areas of property tax. Relief for veterans and other strategic cuts aimed at the middle income earners will also be introduced.
The governor also unveiled his “Next Generation Energy Plan,” moving Minnesota away from fossil fuels and reducing carbon emissions, a policy with which I agree. In addition, he encouraged the passage of a constitutional amendment that I have supported for years: funding for our precious natural resources and conservation programs.
Improving Minnesota’s public education system is a high priority for the governor and I agree with many of his ideas. The projected budget surplus will allow the state to fund programs that initiate and support higher standards for students, including an additional two percent for those schools that achieve or maintain advanced ratings in the areas of reading and math.
I especially like his new “3R” designation for high schools: rigor, relevance and results. I encourage my high schools to participate by ensuring that the expectations of all students are raised to the highest level to which each student can achieve. His “Achieve II” program, which allows students to receive a scholarhsip for an average year’s tuition at a Minnesota public university if they finish a year of college in high school, should motivate high schools to take a closer look at the importance of career and technical education as preparation for technical college programs or for better preparation for jobs in manufacturing.
Passage of a number of initiatives to improve quality and increase accessibility was the governor’s message for better health care and again I agree. The Minnesota Health Connections Plan is a comprehensive approach, improving access, quality and lowering cost, but, I am drafting my own brand of free market Cover More Children.
Working to create a better Minnesota is the purpose of our state government. Thus, I am encouraged by the progress we have made so far this session and will continue to examine each piece of legislation to ensure that it results in better government, better energy, better education and better health care for our neighbors and families.
Sondra Erickson represents District 16A in the Minnesota House of Representatives, including all or parts of Benton, Mille Lacs, and Morrison counties. Erickson is taught English and journalism at Princeton High School for more than 30 years until her retirement in 2000. First elected in a 1998 special election, Erickson was re-elected in the 1998 general election and every two years since. She resides in Princeton.