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Viewpoint: Deficit calls for job creation, economic stimulus

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opinion Woodbury, 55125
Woodbury Minnesota 8420 City Centre Drive 55125

In the wake of the November fiscal forecast showing that Minnesota is facing a projected $4.8 billion shortfall for 2010-11, and an additional $426 million for the current budget year, strong and decisive action to create jobs must be the focus of our legislature when we return to session on Jan. 6, 2009.

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The forecast, derived from numerous economic factors and trends, is a snapshot of the state's fiscal landscape and is used by the Legislature and governor to help us develop the upcoming biennial -- two year -- budget.

While the deficit is daunting, it also presents an opportunity for the Legislature and the governor to work together on a plan that will grow the jobs needed to revive our state's struggling economy. The future of Minnesota depends on it.

Creating and retaining jobs in our state is critical to getting out of this recession. State Economist Tom Stinson, who presented the forecast, said Minnesota may take longer to recover compared with the rest of the nation. Some experts are projecting a loss of 77,000 additional jobs in 2009.

If all we do is focus on cutting our way out of this budget crisis, we will do little to encourage the reform and innovation that is critical to ensuring future economic success.

We must prioritize and focus on making Minnesota work again. And we can't waste any time doing it.

Last week, Gov. Pawlenty and other governors met with President-elect Obama to discuss a possible economic stimulus package that may include aid for states facing budget deficits.

It is estimated that 41 of the 50 states are expecting to face budget shortfalls next year. Despite the fact that according to the Tax Foundation, Minnesota ranked 46th in terms of federal tax dollars received back per tax dollar paid, Gov. Pawlenty has reacted cautiously to the plan.

The foundation's report shows Minnesota received only 72 cents for every dollar sent to the federal government in 2005; however, neighboring North Dakota ranked sixth and received $1.68 for every dollar their taxpayers paid in.

We should be looking to do whatever we can to ensure that our state gets the help it needs to jumpstart our economy and grow well paying jobs in the most promising emerging technologies. We shouldn't turn away a federal economic stimulus plan at a time when struggling families need it.

Federal research funds are growing jobs across our country, but Minnesota lags behind in seeking our share.

Last session, I sponsored legislation with Rep. Tim Mahoney that created the Office of Science and Technology (OST) within the state Department of Employment and Economic Development.

The OST assists small businesses and entrepreneurs to access federal grant programs for technology development while encouraging greater collaboration between academia, research institutions and private industry.

The OST also serves to increase awareness among tech companies of how they can access two federal grant programs that provide funding for early stage businesses: the Small Business Innovation Research program (SBIR) and the Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) program.

Minnesota is known for its innovation and research --consider our success in the medical device industry. However, if we can't find the resources to transfer these ideas to the marketplace, we will lose our competitive edge.

Numerous legislative working groups, such as the Green Jobs Task Force, already are meeting to discuss how to create jobs in Minnesota, both in the short and long-term.

I am also proposing two programs that will help qualified small emerging businesses address the need for early stage capital in Minnesota.

We must also find ways to be more efficient with the taxpayer dollars we have, finding the things in the budget that are most effective and work and eliminating those that don't.

Government needs to be accountable and responsible. I'm determined to work cooperatively with the governor and with legislators of both parties to set the right priorities that in the end will position our state for prosperity in the future.

Saltzman (DFL-Woodbury) represents District 56 in the Minnesota Senate. She can be reached at (651) 296-4166 or at sen.kathy.saltzman@senate.mn

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