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Red Ink to Dominate 2009 Legislature

January 6, 2009

St. Paul, MN – Budget decisions are expected to dominate the Minnesota Legislature, which begins its 2009 session today. The state faces an almost five-billion-dollar two-year deficit, and lawmakers say they'll try to cut back on spending. Former state representative Doug Peterson, who now heads the Minnesota Farmers Union, says it's a big challenge because much of the budget goes for essentials such as health, education and transportation.

"There's not a lot of meat on that bone. My feeling is that when push comes to shove, there's going to be hands across the aisle and they're going to have to get married, so to speak, and agree on some very ugly budget positions."

He says lawmakers may also have to raise some taxes to help balance the books. Peterson notes that a new budget forecast comes out next month, and it could show the state is even deeper in debt.

The session can't be only about cutting, he continues; it should also include some productive spending.

"You have to also invest in an infrastructure that is aging, in an infrastructure that needs energy and green energy delivery systems and technology, which we don't have."

The former lawmaker says another priority should be to increase broadband access, especially in rural Minnesota. Getting just one percent more of the state's population up to speed, he adds, would help businesses and schools and create thousands of jobs.

Peterson served in the legislature as a DFL representative from Madison from 1990-2002. For several years, he was chairman of the House Agriculture Committee.

Jim Wishner, Public News Service - MN