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2011 legislative session begins

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2011 legislative session begins
Cloquet Minnesota 122 Avenue C 55720

On Jan. 4, the 2011 Legislative Session began and I was sworn into my second term in the Minnesota State Senate. I thank you all for the opportunity to be your voice at the Capitol and pledge to work hard, listen to your concerns, and continue to reach across the aisle to get things done for the good of our state.

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This session will bring about many changes and challenges. We have new faces in control of Minnesota's legislative and executive branches, but we all inherit a $6.2 billion state budget deficit. For my part, I will continue to advocate a fair and responsible way of balancing the budget. We need to look forward and set a path for economic growth, so our state can become stronger in the years to come.

While the new Republican majorities still hold to the notion that this deficit can be balanced by cuts alone - it simply isn't possible without dismantling the things that have made Minnesota a great place to live, work and raise a family. I believe there will need to be new revenue in the state budget. Our challenge will be to make sure the revenue sources are fair and do not overly burden our struggling families and workers.

Over the past eight years, the burden of the state's budget has fallen disproportionately on working families through higher government fees and property taxes. Ninety-five percent of Minnesota families are paying higher taxes now than when former Governor Pawlenty took office - only the richest 5 percent of Minnesotans are now paying less.

Moving forward, we can't continue to squeeze working families by driving up tuition, health care costs and property taxes. We can't abandon our schools and let our kids' education and future opportunities decline. I'll be standing up for these regular folks and encouraging the majority party to pass a responsible budget.

Going hand in hand with balancing the budget shortfall, a priority must be on increasing good-paying jobs in our communities, as this will bring security to the budgets of our families and our state. We need to help our small businesses succeed, attract new opportunities for economic development, and improve the state's workforce.

There's a lot at stake for Minnesota this Legislative Session. Every time I consider a vote, I will ask myself if the proposal will position our state and its families for future prosperity. Clearly, that is the most important task in these challenging economic times.

Senator Tony Lourey can be contacted at sen.tony.lourey@senate.mn, 651-296-0293, or write to 125 State Office Building, 100 Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Blvd., St. Paul, MN 55155.

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