Guest Column: Goals for a next term in legislative office
Guest Column by Peggy Bennett
I would like to say thank you to the people of 27A for allowing me the honor of serving you at the Minnesota Capitol as your state representative. It has been a true joy for me.
One of my favorite parts of my job as state representative is to get out and around to events and visit with people. I believe people are the most important part of government and that the best ideas come from those who are living and working right here at home. That is why I get out into our communities year-round to hear from people, and it has been a real pleasure.
I would like to briefly share with you three goals for my next two years in office should you choose to send me to the Capitol again. There will be other issues to deal with as well, important issues such as health care, but below are three of my goals. As I have listened to people, these themes have come up often.
First, I have a passion for government reform. I have offered bills for reforming government, and I will not give up on this — things like making sure government is accountable for spending your tax money wisely and omnibus bill reform.
Omnibus bills are those big, bloated bills full of a multitude of smaller bills. They are one of the main reasons we have such gridlock at the end of sessions, and they are not fair to you, the voters, because they allow legislators to hide their votes.
A bipartisan bill I chief authored last session would slim down these omnibus bills by bringing government back to a more one-bill-one-vote process, making government more transparent for you. It is critical to continue working on this issue.
Another government reform matter I have been working on deals with government spending. My bipartisan “evidence-based government” bill would bring more accountability to government spending by requiring goals to be set and data collected on program effectiveness.
Unfortunately, the COVID-19 Legislature shutdown interfered with many bills that were in process last session, and both of these bills got caught up in the shutdown. We need reforms like these so government will work for people like it should. Both issues are uphill battles, but I will not give up on them!
Second, I want to make sure the Legislature protects the core responsibilities of state government from cuts — important core government functions like education, public safety and caring for the vulnerable such as people in nursing homes.
Determining what programs are effective is going to be incredibly important with the looming $5 billion-plus deficit our state is facing next year. We need to bring common sense to our state budget. There are so many government programs that don’t work and provide little benefit to our state. It’s time for us to eliminate these ineffective programs once and for all and continue to fund the programs that actually help people. My “evidence-based government” bill would help with this issue.
My third goal is a special passion of mine as a former teacher: education. Education is an important key and answer to many of our state’s critical issues: family economic viability, workforce, unemployment, poverty and inner-city turmoil and unrest. Reforming our education system is one of the main solutions that will go a long way in helping solve each of these important issues.
Our current educational system is “stuck.” Minnesota has one of the highest achievement gaps in the nation. This is not a teacher problem — we have thousands of high-quality teachers in our state — it is a system problem.
Pouring more money into the same old system will not fix the problem. If it were the solution, then Minneapolis and St. Paul students — who receive thousands of dollars in additional per pupil funding — would be our top scholars. Our state has invested an additional $3.9 billion dollars ($4,000 per pupil) into Minnesota schools since 2003, a 7.6% per pupil increase adjusted for inflation, and yet test scores have remained stagnant and low.
I believe innovation is the answer for education; thinking outside the box and finding ways to educationally reengage a significant segment of Minnesota families. I have already introduced bills, and have more planned, to address this issue. Our children, our inner-city communities, families in poverty and our state deserve this.
Thank you, again, for the opportunity you have given me to serve you. I would cherish the opportunity to serve you again as your state representative.
Peggy Bennett, R-Albert Lea, is seeking reelection as the District 27A representative.