Many of the district's papers are reporting about area leaders' hopes that Obama's proposed economic stimulus package might take some of the sting out of state budget shortfall. In Lawmaker warns businesses that state might target taxes, the Post Bulletin's Heather Carlson writes:
The Senate Tax Committee chairman issued an ominous warning to Rochester-area business leaders today: Lawmakers and the governor might look to property taxes to solve the state's massive budget deficit. . . .
. . .Bakk joined six other legislators in speaking to members of the Rochester Area Chamber of Commerce as part of the group's annual legislative preview. Other speakers included Senate Minority Leader Dave Senjem, R-Rochester, Assistant House Minority Leader Andy Welti, DFL-Plainview, Assistant House Minority Leader Randy Demmer, R-Hayfield, Rep. Kim Norton, DFL-Rochester, Sen. Ann Lynch, DFL-Rochester and House Minority Leader Marty Seifert, R-Marshall.
. . . John Eckerman, the chamber's vice president for government affairs, told lawmakers it is critical that businesses get the tools they need to weather these tough times, including economic development tools, affordable health care and transportation upgrades.
But getting that wish list filled will likely prove challenging. Both Republicans and Democrats doubt there will be a bonding bill because of concerns about the state's debt. The hope is that Minnesota will benefit from a federal stimulus package being pushed by President-elect Barack Obama.
Demmer said he was told by U.S. Rep. Tim Walz that Minnesota is in line to receive $870 million in federal stimulus money.. . .
Read the entire article at the PB. The Caledonia Argus notes in Federal program may help fund highway department complex.
. . .Houston County Finance Director Casey Bradley laid a potentially fantastic Christmas present on the laps of the county commissioners at the end of the Dec. 16 board meeting. Bradley informed the board he learned of a federal program that could fund up to 100 percent of the construction costs of the new county highway complex.
“It’s not a sure thing,” Bradley cautioned. “But it certainly is something I felt we needed to apply for. Even if we would receive partial funding, it would be a real plus for Houston County taxpayers.” . . .
The full article will appear in the paper's December 24 issue. The Fairmont Sentinel calls it a "bailout" in Area officials air concerns:
. . .Rosen offered the local officials some good news. She heard from Congressman Tim Walz that of the $700 billion federal bailout, $85 billion is slotted for transportation. Rosen said Minnesota is currently slated for $878 million of that, and $488 million would go toward highways and bridges, with other funds toward buses, clean water and other areas. She said those details just emerged and further specifics need to be worked out. . . .
We find this choice of words by the reporter to be fascinating, since the Sentinel's readers might readily conclude that Congressman Walz was talking about, oh, maybe the Wall Street bailout that shelled out roughly that amount--and which he voted against twice in the waning weeks of the 110th Congress. Who would know that it's an as yet to be approved economic stimulus package that the 111th Congress will debate at the beginning of its first session?
In Budget deficit dominated discussion, the New Ulm Journal reported yesterday:
The projected budget deficit took center stage Tuesday morning as Brown County officials sat down to discuss the upcoming legislative session with the two state legislators that represent the county.
As in years past, the county board scheduled one hour for each legislator. County department heads brought - and voiced - their own concerns to State Sen. Dennis Frederickson of New Ulm and Representative-elect Paul Torkelson of St. James.
Frederickson was the first to meet with the board, one minute after the meeting began. He started the conversation by saying, "I don't like to be compared with Scrooge. I would rather be compared with Cratchet." . . .
. . .The Representative-elect [Paul Torgelson] had a similar outlook to his Senatorial counterpart. He said the budget is "the big topic at the capitol." Local Government Aid is one topic being discussed, but Torkelson said he hasn't been privy to any discussions about the budget.
County Board Chairman Andrew Lochner asked the freshman representative if he had a feel for his committee assignments. Torkelson said he applied for the Clean Water Council and requested to join the finance committees for environmental and natural resources, agriculture, transportation and telecommunications committee, though he thinks the possibility he will be allowed to join those committees are slim.
He mentioned talk of federal money for infrastructure projects as mentioned by President-elect Barack Obama, saying he is meeting with Congressman Tim Walz today to talk about the possible infrastructure investment and what it could mean for this state. . . .
The Rushford Tri-County News also discusses a potential use of money from Obama's stimulus package in Could Obama economic stimulus plan help R-P district schools? Supt. Ehler meets with Congressman Walz:
. . .[The] R-P [school leadership] still made important personal contact Monday with another political figure, namely Congressman Tim Walz, DFL-Mankato. Walz, the District One incumbent in the U.S. House of Representatives, happened to be in his Rochester office and took time to meet and greet three local persons.
Supt. Chuck Ehler, Dan Munson from the board, and Community Education Director Beth Theede made the journey. All went away feeling good about what they were told.
The reason for the visit?
Ehler came across a weekend Associated Press story about President-Elect Barack Obama's plan to rejuvenate the nation's roads, buildings, and schools. Obama, who assumes the presidency from outgoing George W. Bush on Jan. 20, 2009, is hoping Congress will pass a $64.3 billion economic aid plan and create millions of jobs.
It's no secret that the Rushford-Peterson District needs a new school, and obtaining a chunk of federal money as part of the national stimulus package might solve a lot of problems.
Ehler presented a letter to the congressman outlining thoughts on the subject of the district's quest for a new pre-school, elementary, and high school building in Rushford and remodeled middle school in Peterson.
Fortunately, Walz is already familiar with R-P's circumstances in wake of the August 2007 flood. He visited shortly after the disaster. . . .
Read the rest at the Tri-County News, which also contains more news about the costs and character building involved in restoring the town since it was submerging by record-breaking flooding in August 2007.
In the rush to reach for a quick study of Congressman Walz, some writers forget that the educator is a well-educated guy. Not so with one of the First's unversities. St. Mary's in Winona offers its congratulation to Alums elected senator, representative. Mike Johanns, Nebraska's new Senator, former governor and USDA secretary, graduated from St. Mary's in 1971. Closer to home:
. . .Congratulations also go to Tim Walz, who was re-elected as U.S.
Representative from Minnesota’s 1st District. Walz, a Democrat from
Mankato, is a candidate in our doctoral program in leadership.
Additionally, four alumni retained their seats in the Minnesota House, each of whom have received a Master of Arts from SMU. The group of four will be entering their second terms, including David Bly M’04 (DFL-Northfield), Carolyn Laine M’03 (DFL-Columbia Heights), Robin Brown M’99 (DFL-Austin), and Will Morgan M’99 (DFL-Burnsville). . . .
In Rahm Emanuel's Strategy For Progressives, Chris Bowers at Open Left repeats the story of Rahm Emanuel's reaction to a critical LTE one of Walz supporters sent to a small town paper. The post does note that Walz is "one of the few Bush Dogs to drop off the list."
We've noticed that this anecdote, which first appeared in The Hill several weeks ago, seems to have a life of its own, though only one email correspondent has asked about the LTE itself. We're not certain but pretty sure this epistle from Fillmore County's Neil Haugerud is the document in question, from November 2007. We blogged about it at the time.
By the time the letter was published, Walz had taken a lot of heat for his August 2007 vote for a bad FISA bill and had voted for the RESTORE Act. In early 2008, attack ads from a Washington PAC had aired in the First urging Walz to vote for another bad spying bill that would update FISA. In June, Walz voted against the final version of that bill and was removed from Open Left's list.
It's Friday; have a fun evening and remember your winter driving skills.
Photo: Local leaders and elected officials in the First are digging talk of a federal economic stimulus package focused at rebuilding infrastructure and schools, rather than bailing somebody out. We're hoping we see more groundbreaking ceremony pictures like this one for the Waeca Highway 14 bypass. (picture swiped from MnDot).