Driving County Roads

An on line journal sharing my views. The content reflects my background as a rural person employed in agriculture and as a retired elected official of local government.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Thank you - honest folks!

Some taxpayers of Nicollet County point out errors when they see them - even when the error means they must pay more taxes. It is gratifying to see. One couple came to the auditor's office and asked about the "limited market value" of a certain parcel of property. It was discovered through this process that the value was incorrect and making the correction resulted in the couple having to pay an additional $1,344. This is a good example of people doing the right thing! Thank you. end

Saturday, February 20, 2010


Since a majority of Minnesotans voted to raise our sales tax in November of 2008, the state now has constitutionally dedicated funds to be used for clean water, parks and trails, and arts and culture. If there is one thing I have learned since being elected to office is that the folks in our state who work with water are dedicated, feisty, and in some cases unreasonable and not willing to compromise. The result is: you guessed it - more fighting about funding various water and environment projects. These conflicts are in their infancy now because this "new money" that started being collected in July of 2009. However, the indications are that these "varying ideas" on the best use of these funds will escalate. We can all put the blame for this squarely on the backs of our elected representatives.
Other than the Lessard/Sams Outdoor Heritage Council, the lawmakers did not provide a workable structure in the amendment for distributing the funds. Why did they fail to do so? One of my fellow county commissioners answered the question this way. "They never thought it would pass!" And I think he hit the nail on the head.
It did pass and it proves that Minnesotans are willing to raise our own taxes. Now, the lawmakers and bureaucrats are in a reactive mode. They are setting up a website to inform citizens of how the funds are being utilized. The site will also show all of the projects funded and the frameworks and plans that are being developed for each fund. The webiste will also display methods of applying for grants. The address is http://www.cdf.leg.mn/ end.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

A Leader Must Communicate

Rep. Erin Murphy and Sen. Linda Berglin have been working diligently to develop an alternative to the GMAC that Governor Pawlenty will approve of. Our Governor is all about efficiency and saving tax-payer dollars - especially if he can do it on the backs of the poorest of the poor. With that in mind then why is it that the governor is failing to communicate with these two legislators? Berglin said, "It would be a whole lot easier if the governor would tell us what he would like instead of what he doesn't like." These legislators have made proposals and then made modifications suggested by officials of DHS, but they still do not know if the Governor will veto the bill or not. This kind of efficiency reminds me of tactics used by boys in junior high.
In December, our Social Services director, Joan Tesdahl, told us that Nicollet County has 147 case-loads under General Assistance Medical Care. When GMAC goes away, they will be transitioned into Minnesota Care, the government option medical insurance. However, they will have to pay monthly premiums. Will they be able to do that? Will they remember to do it and will they be able to make good decisions to budget and set money aside for that? Will they be able to keep jobs to earn the money to pay the premiums? The simple truth is that many will not be able to accomplish these tasks. They will fall through the cracks and then we will end up paying more in emergency room bills and public safety costs.
These important facts will go unknown to the ultraconservative supporters nationwide whom Governor Pawlenty is trying to impress. They will only see the headlines that point out Governor Pawlenty's fine management of a state budget in poor economic times. No, this governor is not about leadership or statesmanship, he is about power to accomplish is own ambitious agenda and he will even stoup to doing it on the backs of our poor. end

Monday, February 15, 2010


I am often asked if Nicollet County has received stimulus money. We have, but it has come in ways that most people are not aware of. There were no large sums dedicated to infrastructure projects, but we have received benefits.
In May of 2009 every one who received Social Security payments received a $250 bonus payment. Most of the recipients have probably forgotten they received the money. Likewise, all workers receiving a pay check that has income tax withheld had that amount decrease starting in April of 2009. This should allow for more take home pay to meet household expenses.
There have been many criticisms of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act and like all government programs, I am sure there has been abuse. However, I can testify that the $5,112,651 that came to Nicollet County AND the other eight counties that make up the Minnesota Valley Action Council (MVAC) was used well.
The following information comes from the MVAC annual report. "In 2009 MVAC invested $17,806,261 on behalf of people living in nine counties of south central Minnesota. The majority of those funds were spent in local businesses and with local contractors on behalf of people experiencing low income. MVAC also provided direct employment for 794 people in the nine counties it serves."
Here is a partial listing of the kind of work MVAC accomplished.
  • Weatherized 302 homes, spending $600,621 at local businesses.
  • Assisted 43 people secure loans for home improvements. These loans generated $681,707 spent at local businesses.
  • Provided 883 people with employment services. This is a 241% increase over 2008.
  • Assisted 8,359 people with heating bills. This is a 129% increase over 2008.
  • Provided 677 low-income children with quality pre-school opportunities.

A recent article in the Mankato Free Press stated, "MVAC statistics are the same as the canary in the coal mine." They are vivid indicators of what is really happening. Our work is cut out for us. end