Growing up on my family’s farm near Princeton, Minn., I learned from my father how to work hard and fix what was broken.
First, you identify the problem and then you work (with as many hands as you can find to help) toward a solution.
We have an opportunity over the next 10 years to do just that in Minnesota.
Our state faces a real problem. I recognize there are some numbers that may leave the impression of a rosier economic picture, like lower unemployment. But the reality is that we are not producing jobs fast enough to pay our growing state spending bills.
A Star Tribune article in September, headlined: “New data ranks Minnesota last in Midwest in private sector job creation.” We trailed all 10 other states in our Midwest region. According to the same Bureau of Labor Statistics data, Minnesota ranked 41st in the nation in private sector job growth from March 2013 to March 2014.
And the Star Tribune last spring explained that more than 50 percent of working adults in Minnesota in 2012 found themselves in jobs at a lower skill level or lower pay than they are accustomed to — the highest level since this statistic has been tracked (“Minnesotans: On the job and overqualified”).
The people of our great state are incredibly hardworking.
That’s why it’s so frustrating, as a relative newcomer to St. Paul, to see our tax dollars spent inefficiently.
Minnesotans’ tax dollars have been thrown at a lot of things that various groups of people find desirable — new light-rail trains, new government buildings and new bike trails — but we aren’t maintaining roads and bridges that serve the overwhelming number of working Minnesotans.
For too long, state government has been buying “extras” before providing the “basics.”
In November, Minnesotans elected Republicans the new majority in the Minnesota House of Representatives. We heard their message loud and clear: Restore balance in state government.
As leader of the new majority and speaker of the House, I am committed to a new approach.
House Republicans will listen to Minnesotans, identify problems you care about and work toward solutions with anyone who is willing — including our Democratic colleagues and the governor.
Today we are introducing our first five bills, which can guide our legislative efforts to:
• Grow additional better-paying jobs for all.
• Refocus transportation dollars on roads and bridges.
• Make sure every child receives a world-class education.
• Protect aging adults’ quality of life.
• Ensure fair access and affordability in health care.
These pieces of legislation are not written in stone, they are simply a framework to begin a statewide conversation.
In coming weeks, House Republicans will continue discussions with Minnesotans at the Capitol and in our communities. As lawmakers, we will operate under new ground rules as we participate in this statewide conversation. All of us must expect and embrace new ideas, including technology, to make government work better for Minnesotans. And as lawmakers, we cannot go back to Minnesotans to pay for the “basics” when we’ve already taken their money and spent it on “extras.”
If we follow these principles and focus on the issues that will have the greatest impact on Minnesotans, the Legislature will function better.
House Republicans believe citizens should define the scope of our work, not special interests.
At the end of the day, in order for the state to be successful, we need its citizens to be successful. If hardworking Minnesotans’ jobs are threatened or, worse, cease to exist, nothing else will ultimately survive. For House Republicans, for all Minnesotans, we must keep this central in all of our problem-solving.
When it comes to state policymaking over the next two years, consider a three-legged stool. The new House Republican majority is one leg. Democrats control the Minnesota Senate and the governor’s office, the other two legs. I am ready for the challenge of advocating for solutions we believe are best for Minnesotans, and I am willing to listen to those who argue the alternative. We need as many hands as possible to pitch in and demonstrate to the next generation how to work hard and fix what is broken. Together, we can make progress in 2015 and in the decade to come.
Now let’s get to work for Minnesotans.
Kurt Daudt, R-Crown, is speaker of the Minnesota House of Representatives.