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Gimse named chairman of Senate transportation committee

Sen. Joe Gimse, pictured during a Sept. 28 debate, on Wednesday was named chairman of the Senate transportation committee. The Republican senator from Willmar immediately warned the transportation budget would receive a thorough review under his watch. Tribune photo by Gary Miller

As he prepares to begin his second term in office, Sen. Joe Gimse, R-Willmar, has been handed a key chairmanship position.It was announced Wednesday that Gimse will lead the Senate Transportation Budget and Policy Committee."I'm very interested in transportation, so I'm very pleased to be chairman of that committee," Gimse said. "It'll be a challenge."

As with most committees, Gimse will be leading his through the rigors of making budget cuts to help balance the state's shaking finances.

Details of those finances will not be known until December when the revenue projections are released.

"Then we'll get a better picture of where we're at and where we're headed," he said.

But Gimse warned that the transportation budget would receive a thorough review under his watch. "It's going to be scrutinized like it's never been scrutinized before," he said.

"We're going to match the budget to the needs and try to do the best job that we can to make sure we have a well-balanced transportation and transit system in Minnesota," Gimse said.

He laughed and brushed off a question about rural roads getting more funding because he's chairman of the committee, but said it will be good for rural Minnesota "to have a rural set of eyes on that committee."

Gimse said safety will be the committee's top priority. Most fatal accidents happen on rural roads, and he said he will provide a valuable rural perspective as chairman.

He said he wants the state to have a better partnership with counties when it comes to keeping up the road system efficiently. He wants their ideas on how to make that happen, he said.

Besides roads, he said funding for the state's transit system will also be taken up by the committee.

The first step as chairman will be to get all the freshman senators appointed to the committee "up to speed on how everything works."

Gimse, as well all the Senate committee chairman, will also have to learn how to run committees. Since this is the first time in 38 years that Republicans have held the majority in the Senate, Republican senators have not had a chance to lead committees before.

Gimse said he and his colleagues are ready. "There's a lot of energy and enthusiasm," he said.