A recent letter to the editor by my three-time former campaign opponent (Bonnie Wilhelm) raised concerns and I would like to correct some of her misstatements.
Addressing the historic budget deficit of $6.4 billion was the Legislature's top priority. We met this challenge by sending a balanced budget to the governor that prevented property tax increases by keeping local government aid flat, and maintained our commitment to schools, hospitals and nursing homes.
We protected these core values with a pay-as-you-go plan that asked those most fortunate in our state to pay a fair share; a family making $300,000 per year would have been asked to pay an extra $109. By contrast, the governor and House GOP cut spending by eliminating medical care for the poorest and sickest Minnesotans -- many of them seniors and veterans. This is un-Minnesotan to the core and does not maintain our commitment to helping the least among us.
As chair of the Agriculture and Veterans Affairs Finance Committee, I worked bipartisanly with members from both sides of the aisle to make necessary budget cuts while at the same time protecting services to our veterans and maintaining our commitment to agriculture. Our final bill passed 133-0 off the House floor and was signed into law by the governor.
I also succeeded in passing the Willmar veterans mental health facility legislation off the House floor again -- the third time in the last two years. This project is stalled in the Minnesota Senate where I do not have a seat; I would encourage the author of the recent letter to contact her senator (Joe Gimse) to inquire why this project hasn't moved forward.
I work hard for the people of District 13B, and kept your best interests at the forefront when considering a final budget deal. I could not agree to Tim Pawlenty's plan of kicking the budget deficit down the road for the next governor and Legislature to deal with, or to his cuts that would kick people off of health care, raise property taxes, and close hospitals and nursing homes. I believe the residents of our district, and all Minnesotans, deserve better.
- Rep. Al Juhnke, Willmar