Jobs, transportation will be focus of 2008 session

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The 2008 session of the Minnesota legislature convenes February 12. This session will have multiple backdrops: the 35W bridge collapse, a projected state budget deficit of $373 million, a state economy suffering from the highest levels of unemployment in years, and of course, the 2008 elections.

In even-numbered years, the legislature’s main goal traditionally has been to pass a bonding bill during a so-called “short session” to fund capital investments.

“This year we would like to point out that the bonding bill is really a job creation bill,” said Senate Majority Leader Larry Pogemiller. “We need to get back to where Minnesota’s unemployment rate is the lowest in the nation,” he added.

“This short session will give us a real opportunity to focus on jobs and the Minnesota economy,” House Speaker Margaret Anderson-Kelliher told the Labor Review.

Governor Tim Pawlenty has announced he will support a bonding bill totaling $965 million, the highest figure permissible.

“We think that’s a positive sign,” Anderson-Kelliher said.

“People are realizing we need to invest in critical infrastructure around the state… and get our economy back fired up again,” she said.

Anderson-Kelliher said she also expected both House and Senate to act quickly on a comprehensive transportation bill, similar to the bill passed last year — but vetoed by Governor Pawlenty.

This year, Pogemiller said, “I would hope we have the support to put it into law regardless of a veto.” Union leaders echoed the legislative leaders’ goals.

“The mission of the Minnesota State Building Trades Council is jobs, jobs and if we can get some more, more jobs,” said Dick Anfang, president of the Council. The Building Trades, he said will support a bonding bill, a comprehensive transportation bill, Mall of America expansion, and a new home for the Minnesota Vikings.

“We are — as always — preparing to work with both sides of the aisle, to work with the administration, to find the proper compromises to maximize job opportunities throughout the state of Minnesota,” Anfang said. “It’s all about jobs and getting it done.” “We need to invest in education, transportation, health and human services and the infrastructure that makes this state great,” said Eliot Seide, executive director of AFSCME Council 5. “We’re lagging behind in all these areas.” “No new taxes means no new jobs and disinvestment in the public services that sustain our quality of life,” Seide added.

“Getting Minnesota families through the recession will mean other things need to be done,” said Rep. Jim Davnie, chair of the House Labor and Consumer Protection Division.

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