Senator Gary Dahms of Redwood Falls and Representative Paul Torkelson of Hanska attended a forum at the Brown County Congress held at the Sleepy Eye REA building this past Friday to discuss legislative issues affecting Brown County.
Two main issues for those attending the forum were the new Affordable Care Act and Local Government Aid (LGA).
Superintendent Keith Kottke of Springfield Public Schools raised the issue that being an employer who is dependent on public funds, he sees the Affordable Care Act as something that could become problematic if programs and services have to be altered to accommodate the exchange.
Dahms said there are many questions raised with the Affordable Health Care Act, but in the meantime the legislature is attempting to put together an exchange bill that looks good without knowing all of the specifics.
“The bill has to be paid for somehow and how it gets paid for are far reaching and there will be some unfortunate circumstances,” Dahms said. “There are some real issues with the exchange, but knowing that, we have to make sure we work toward a resolution with these issues.”
Dahms assured Kottke and those present that there is concern in the legislature for employers and it will be watched carefully and the processes followed through.
The topic shifted to LGA, when Kottke voiced his concerns.
“In the next decade we could be competitive, but with decreases in LGA, the quality of rural Minnesota decreases,” he said. “A reduction in LGA affects all of us–New Ulm, Springfield and Sleepy Eye.”
Dahms said there was an indication that the funding that was supposed to come to rural Minnesota is not going to happen.
“The proposed short-term funding for rural Minnesota looks good, but in the long run it takes money away from rural Minnesota and gives it to the suburbs,” Dahms said. “Its kicking rural America down big time.”
“I find it alarming how poorly we are being treated in rural Minnesota,” Torkelson added.
Dahms continued by saying rural Minnesota doesn’t have the numbers to pull the funding, but cautioned that residents shouldn’t take the issue laying down.
“We need you on the capitol steps voicing your opinion. We are fighting for you, but we need you to assist us,” Dahms added.
He continued by saying that every time LGA is tweaked it always goes to the metro area because they have the votes.
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Torkelson explained that there are great opportunities in rural Minnesota such as young people returning from college to work in the agricultural industry, and everyone needs to work together to find a way for these opportunities to continue.
“I know life in a small town is great and we need to promote that,” Torkelson added.
Both legislators ended the session encouraging residents to bring their concerns to them and to help them have a voice by considering attending rallys on the capitol steps.