Local group attends 'Business Day at the Capitol'
by Barry Bergquist Guest Writer On Wednesday, March 14, over 800 people descended on the Capitol in St. Paul. They weren't angry Vikings with blood in their eyes, but businessmen from all over the state with a common mission - to talk to their el...
by Barry Bergquist
On Wednesday, March 14, over 800 people descended on the Capitol in St. Paul. They weren't angry Vikings with blood in their eyes, but businessmen from all over the state with a common mission - to talk to their elected representatives about the issues important to them and the State of Minnesota.
Twelve Cloquet citizens drove to St. Paul to lobby for things important to our community. They included Kelly Zink, Chamber executive; Steve Micke, Scott Powers and Travis Hansen, Reliable Insurance Agency; Barry Bergquist, Bergquist Imports; Mark Roberts, Short, Elliot, Hendrickson; Chris Rousseau, MSA Professional Services; John Turonie, Raiter Clinic; Pat Oman, Carlton County Economic Development Coordinator; Elliot Skurich, FDLCC; Pete Radosovich, attorney; and Fred Little, retired.
The morning session began at 10 a.m. at the Crowne Plaza Hotel. The welcome was given by David Olson, president of the Minnesota Chamber of Commerce, and Tom Forsythe, vice president of corporate communications for General Mills, Minneapolis, and 2006-2007 chairman, Minnesota Chamber of Commerce.
After the welcoming remarks, Tony Sertich, House Majority Leader (DFL-Chisholm), and Marty Seifert, House Minority Leader (R-Marshall), addressed the audience.
Sertich said the DFL House would work with the Governor to get things done. Seifert said there are many ways to arrive at the same destination.
The Cloquet group attended an issues briefing session by President Dave Olson, who explained the Minnesota Chamber's position on key issues - transportation, health care, education, and labor management.
After questions from the audience, it was time for lunch with Governor Tim Pawlenty as the keynote speaker. The Governor said four years ago the state had a $4 billion deficit. He had some tough decisions, but his policies led to economic growth and a $2 billion budget surplus. He wants to use the surplus to restore cuts made during the tight times.
His budget would increase by 9.3 percent without raising taxes. He said the state should live within its means. He poked fun at the DFL legislators who want to go from a weight watchers diet to an all-you-can-eat buffet! They want to increase the budget $5 billion and would raise taxes to pay for it. He promised to veto any tax increases. His policy is to "Squeeze the surplus, not the taxpayer."
The group's next stop was the State Capitol to meet with area legislators, including Representative Bill Hilty and Mary Murphy. They stated they were supportive of the Cloquet Chamber's request to pass the Local Option Sales Tax bill. The group also talked about trail funding, FDLCC bonding, transportation money, health care, etc.
Next, the local leaders visited Senator Tom Bakk and Senator Tony Lourey, both of whom said they would help with the local option sales tax, but weren't sure it would pass this year. They also said that income taxes and property taxes would be increased to provide property tax relief and more spending for education and local government aid.
Next year, Cloquet hopes to have 15 representatives at the Capitol.
Barry Bergquist is a businessman in Cloquet.