It's that time again in election campaigns where we can expect to hear and read half truths and sometimes just plain lies about issues and opponents. This campaign is no exception as candidates may believe they are telling the truth but more often they also may be ignorant of the facts. Unfortunately they continue to repeat and repeat their half truths even though they have been exposed to the facts.
Rep Kiel has been claiming that the state budget has been balanced and that there is a budget surplus, both of which are only partially true. The budget for this budget cycle of 2011-12 has been balanced by borrowing, accounting shifts, delaying payments, tuition and fee increases, and cost shifts. In total, the state delayed paying aid to the school districts in the amount of $2.4 billion and borrowed an additional $1.1 billion. This means that on Jan. 1, 2013 of the next budget cycle for 2013/14, the state budget will be in deficit approximately $3.5 billion, not including inflation. In the meantime,we have experienced the largest property taxes in the history of the state. At the same time, the Homestead Tax Credit was eliminated. The truth is that there is no surplus and the state will have a budget deficit of approximately $3.5 billion.
Rep. Kiel also claims that K-12 education funding has been increased, this is also only partially true. In order to provide for a $50 per pupil increase in the basic formula allowance, the state sold the tobacco bonds for cash and delayed payments; in essence, the state borrowed $2.4 billion from aid to school districts [the so-called shift]. No new general fund monies were allocated to the school districts but the money that the state borrowed from the school shift was "recycled" back to the districts through aid provided in the $50 increase of the basic formula aid. All the borrowing, according to former Governor Arne Carlson, will cost the state $1.67 for every $1 borrowed. Although education appeared to be a high priority, failing to provide adequate funding for K-12 schools was further exasperated by drastic under-funding of the Universtiy and MNSCU systems. This under-funding resulted in tuition and fee increases for students of the system. Minnesota students now carry the highest per capita student debt load of any state in America.
It is interesting to note all the accolades given to Rep Kiel by big business and business PACs. Examine who are they and who do they represent? Their membership has few, and in some instances, no members who are constituents of the district she represents; they do, however, represent and lobby for big business. They are corporations, not what is considered small business. Small businesses are those businesses which are prominent in our area. Small businesses are those businesses which have 50 or less employees. These small businesses generally do not have paid lobbyists at the capitol but may be represented by their local chamber of commerce. Rep Kiel may be voting for business but it's the corporate big business not the small business representive of our area.
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Any elected official is expected to represent the best interests of his or her constituency. A major priority for rural constituents is to have good roads and bridges at the state, county, township and city level. Maintaining these roads and bridges has become a matter of adequate funding. Two weeks ago, MNDOT released their 20 year program; it indicates that they will have difficulty maintaining the present highway system as it is now. Even maintaining the system at this level will require them to concentrate only on maintenance and partial or spot re-construction projects. One can expect only spot and safety improvements. If you are concerned about your roads and bridges, you should be concerned about your elected officials. Rep Kiel attempted to change laws pertaining to overweight trucks. She wanted them to be exempt from being ticketed for overweight by changing the distance haul provision of the first haul.
Fortunately, some legislators recognized the potential damage and cost to the roads and bridges. The damage to a road by a single pass of one legal weight truck load is equivalent to 2,500 passes of a passenger car. The trucking industry has been advocating for longer and heavier weight loadings every legislative session; it can't happen until there is enough funding to build roads to a higher standard. Recently the trucking industry ran a large independent expenditure ad thanking Rep Kiel and telling her "to keep up the good work". Funding of our road systems is by user fees [fuel and license fees] which have not been supported by Rep Kiel.
Minnesota has always been a quality of life state, this has been stalemated the past several years. It is time to move forward. Our representative should again provide representation for us and not for insurance companies, corporations and big businesses. Elect Marc Demers for Representative of District 1B.