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Letter to the editor: Bakk makes his case

When I made the decision to enter the race for governor, I did so because I was concerned about Minnesota's future. We seem to be drifting away from the priorities -- investments in public education and basic infrastructure -- that have brought prosperity to the citizens of Minnesota.

A recent Star Tribune's editorial, "Productivity growth should be priority," and the bi-partisan Minnesota Leadership Summit, held two days earlier, underscored my concern. Too often, our leaders - the current governor included - have embraced budgetary gimmicks to address Minnesota's problems, rather than solve them.

With the state facing a staggering $4.5 billion budget deficit last spring, Gov. Tim Pawlenty proposed borrowing money to help solve the state's financial crisis. In essence, he wanted our children and grandchildren to pay for fixing our current financial problem. When that ploy failed, he announced that he would single-handedly make the spending cuts necessary to balance the state's budget. Part of his plan included manipulating funding for public education.

That must stop. We cannot prepare Minnesota for the economic challenges that lie ahead by short-changing school funding today.

Throughout the summer I have been meeting with people and talking about our need for an honest conversation about the state's financial challenges. We must decide what kind of Minnesota we want to have and how we will get there. While we cannot simply tax and spend our way out of this economic crisis, we must be willing to make wise and tough choices to make Minnesota prosperous again.

One first priority must be to get people back to work. Fewer people are working in Minnesota today than when Gov. Pawlenty took office six and one-half years ago. At least 230,000 Minnesotans have received unemployment checks each month this year.

Those who are unemployed, derive little satisfaction from the fact that over 230,000 other Minnesotans are in the same predicament. Unemployment is more than a mere compilation of numbers. It puts families in crisis.

I know about the insecurity that unemployment brings. As a carpenter, I've had periods of unemployment to contend with. I can assure you that a family's needs do not stop when you lose your job. The bills still come due, even though your earnings have stopped.

State economist Tom Stinson is convinced that there is little that we in Minnesota can do in the near term to reduce unemployment, that our economic recovery is tied to a national upturn. That is scant comfort to the tens of thousands of Minnesotans who are looking for a paycheck.

I believe we must do everything we can to get Minnesotans back to work. For decades, Minnesota built a reputation as a national leader in job creation and economic expansion. But our job growth has withered in recent years, and it is time for our leaders to focus on growing our economy and creating new jobs.

It is a huge task that will require honesty and sacrifice. Long-term prosperity will return to Minnesota only if we supply the workplace skilled and well-educated workers. To do that, we must be willing to make investments in our children's education. School funding must be more than a "rainy day" fund that our leaders raid to fix the next state budget deficit.

Sen. Tom Bakk

Candidate, DFL endorsement for governor