Viewpoint: Minnesota Chamber protects pocketbooksMinnesotans have only begun to feel the impact of the 2008 Legislature. The tentacles of the hundreds of new laws will affect all citizens in one way or another.
By: Laurie Lewandowski, Viewpoint Writer, Woodbury Bulletin
Minnesotans have only begun to feel the impact of the 2008 Legislature. The tentacles of the hundreds of new laws will affect all citizens in one way or another.
Policy-makers delivered on many of the priorities of the Minnesota Chamber of Commerce, and thus of all Minnesotans. Important steps were taken in areas such as health care and transportation, and the shortfall in the general fund was resolved without raising general fund taxes. The more inviting we make our state as a place to retain and grow jobs, the greater the economic security for you and your family.
Here’s a sampling of how we watched out for and delivered on your interests.
Rising health care costs are taking a bigger and bigger chunk out of everyone’s paychecks. The Minnesota Chamber was instrumental in passing a major health care reform bill that takes important steps to help individuals buy insurance coverage in the private market. — and not leave tax-supported public programs as their only option.
Among other provisions, Minnesotans will have access to easy-to-understand information on the cost and quality of care delivered by doctors and hospitals. And they can see how the providers of care compare with their peers.
Idling in Twin Cities traffic or navigating dangerous highways in rural Minnesota costs every Minnesotan time and money. The Minnesota Chamber played a key role in breaking the 20-year gridlock on substantive and long-term funding for roads, bridges and transit. The business community rarely advocates for higher taxes, but it’s not unprecedented if we identify a need and make certain the new money will go for that purpose. A new commission also will recommend measures to ensure that all transportation dollars are spent wisely and efficiently.
Our economy is struggling, and family pocketbooks are stretched to the limit. Yet, many lawmakers still called for higher taxes and gave little attention to the fact that state revenues naturally grow. The Minnesota Chamber made certain that the state budget was balanced without raising general fund taxes. And state spending still grew by about nine percent for the current two-year cycle. We expect most Minnesotans would be quite pleased to see their incomes jump nearly five percent a year.
Energy costs are rising, too, so now is not the time to raise them even further. The Minnesota Chamber knows the importance of a clean environment to all of our livelihoods, and we are strong proponents of conserving energy. Every kilowatt of energy saved is a dollar saved, and that benefits the environment at the same time. No new legislation is required to convince Minnesotans of the wisdom of conservation. That said, we continue to oppose additional government mandates. We ensured that a study will be completed to determine the cost impact on all customers before ordering expensive new programs to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
Now is not the time to reduce standards for high school graduation. The Minnesota Chamber protected recent K-12 public school reforms that help Minnesotans evaluate the outcomes received for their tax dollars. We defeated a proposal to allow students who fail the new high school graduation tests to still receive high school diplomas. This not only would have undermined our efforts to close the achievement gap, but also would have hindered graduates as they compete for jobs in the rapidly changing and global economy.
The Minnesota Chamber is acknowledged as an advocate for the statewide business community. Often not recognized, however, is that our membership represents more than half a million employees as well. As such, we work to make sure that this state remains a good place to do business and for all Minnesotans to enjoy a prosperous quality of life.
Lewandowski is chief executive officer of SJE-Rhombus in Detroit Lakes and chair of the Minnesota Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors. For more information, visit www.mnchamber.com