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8:58— I’m getting set up at the townhall meeting at Whitney Senior Center. Thus far, Representatives Gottwalt & Severson, Sen. Clark & Mayor Kleis Are here. Sen. Clark said that Rep. Haws isn’t here yet but should be here shortly.
9:04— Attendance appears to be good. I just talked with former legislator Bernie Omann, who asked me if I was live logging the event. I said that there isn’t wireless internet so I was doing a “delayed live logging.”
9:07— Rep. Haws just arrived. We should start soon.
9:09— Tarryl is getting things started. She’s saying Rep. Hosch might be here soon. Tarryl: “The Governor’s budget is just coming out.”
9:11— Mayor Kleis is talking. “We’re facing a number of challenges.”Whether your tax dollars are going to the city or the state or the federal, we need to spend money wisely.” Mayor Kleis is talking about the city website having a chart of the city’s priorities. He’s saying that enacting the budget early leaves us with more options.
9:15— Now Mayor Kleis is talking about do’s, don’t’s & ‘do differentlies’. It’s part of his system of identifying needs vs. wants. He’s also obviously interested in always making things run as efficiently as possible. “We feel pretty good about how we’re situated. We think we‘ll rebound quickly once the economy recovers.”
9:20— When Joe Perske, Sartell City Council, says that the LGA formula needs fixing, there’s general agreement with legislators.
9:22— Mayor Kleis is talking about how people ask to cut this or that thing. He said that state mandates limit their options, though he said they sometimes get waivers on those mandates.
9:25— Felix Schmiesing, Sherburne County Commissioner, is talking about how using stimulus dollars is risky. Then he talks about how they need clear direction from the legislature on what they want cities & counties to do.
9:29— SCSU President Potter is talking about the unallotment they experienced. MnSCU budget got cut pretty significantly.
9:31— Steve Jordahl talking about the need to introduce children to the school system earlier. He then talks about how they can’t get make ends meet without more revenues. School levy that passed said that we need to keep class sizes down.
9:36— Jerry von Korff is talking about they’ve had to lay staff off in order to keep special-ed going.
9:41— Steve Broman of CentraCare is talking about the rising cost of health care. He’s saying that we aren’t doing enough to get the fed matching dollars.
9:45— Teresa Bohnen is talking now. Lots of the local companies are already trimming employees. She then asks that government doesn’t raise taxes on small businesses.

Afterwards, I spoke with several local entrepreneurs. One of them told me that his contact in Washington said that the stimulus funds “don’t come with strings attached. They come with CABLES attached.” Another entrepreneur told me that they’ve heard that the stimulus bill is likely to get a major rewrite because (a) of the House vote and (b) Ben Nelson’s statement that a number of Senate Democrats won’t vote for this bill.

Afterthoughts: At times, the meeting felt like a DFL BPOU meeting, where person after person tells why we can’t change and we can’t cut funding. Though that was the dominant perspective, there was significant pushback from the people paying for these programs. One entrepreneur spoke up about how families and small businesses are sacrificing. He then asked why government workers aren’t sharing in that sacrifice. This entrepreneur also asked why government wasn’t doing more in terms of innovation, especially in terms of HSAs.

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