Over the coming weeks I hope to do a series of posts highlighting state legislators in the area. Election season rhetoric is one thing but it is time to get down to the business of governance and all those promises need to be prioritized and put under the scope of practicality. I recently emailed a few legislators to find out what those priorities will be in the coming session.

Representative Larry Haws (DFL) got back to me today expressing his desire to work on education funding as well as continuing to build a coalition of legislators in the area which he refers to as the "St. Cloud Team" that will stand together on common ground issues.

Having served on the District 742 Finance Committee, Haws recognizes the need to fix the funding formula so that we as a state can move towards equity in funding.

The approach will be two fold: First, a best practice study and then a funding formula that reflects State and Federal responsibility for unfunded mandates meeting the needs of all our students. I will co-author, lobby, and give support to this effort. I was proud to have carried a bill for special education but it was small step forward we need a continue our quest fair and adequate funding.

Since arriving in St. Paul, Haws has worked to find issues that the "St. Cloud Team" can find agreement. On veterans issues, he and Dan Severson (R) have worked closely and on bonding measures he and Steve Gottwalt (R) have been able to work together. While I disagree with Severson and Gottwalt on a whole variety of issues it is through this bipartisan team effort that they deserve credit. Haws has a few goals that he would like to see accomplished with the team during this legislative session:

Goals for our Saint Cloud team:

We need to have a successful follow up year for bonding in 2010 and keep the our projects going: Airport Expansion, Civic Center, Health Partners Building Tech College, New Science Building at SCSU, and our Central Minnesota Parks and Trails projects.

A significant challenge to our Saint Cloud Team is to find common ground and work as a team for fair and adequate school funding to improve public education and prevent the use of property tax increases.

We will also need team efforts to secure a fair disbursement of state and federal dollars in transportation funding for Central Minnesota.

Finally, Haws recognizes the daunting challenge this session with the economy in a downturn and a budget deficit that makes for tough decisions:

As a past St. Cloud Park Director, I have years of experience dealing with budget preparation and controls. A primary budget reduction strategy was to lead by example; that is, reductions need to be made on an individual basis and on an administrative level. We need to demonstrate personal willingness to be part of any budget reduction.

I will lobby for a balance between revenues and spending. I'm hopeful we will be dealing with a reduced deficit projection.

In 2008 we used a variety of tools to solve the budget deficit: spending reductions, closing corporate loopholes and use of budget reserves. I would address a 2009 budget deficit in a similar way. I would also work to protect core services and the most vulnerable.

I will continue to revisit these legislative priorities throughout the session and hopefully check in with Larry Haws from time to time to see how things are progressing.