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Hope for progress over partisan drama

Photo by Chris Gaukel (Minnesota State Capitol) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

By most accounts, the 2017 legislative session is shaping up to be interesting. The GOP will now control both Minnesota legislative chambers. Their agenda will contrast sharply with that of Gov. Mark Dayton, who has announced no plans to run for another term in 2018. We have all watched the frustrating results play out in the waning days of the 2016 legislative session. Efforts to revive hope through a potential special session were lost as leadership personalities crashed head-on during negotiations.

What does that mean for 2017 potential progress? The truth is, we don't really know. What we do know is that the scope of work to be done is massive.

We have not passed a significant infrastructure (bonding) bill since 2014. The backlog of critical projects is growing. 2017 is also the year to put together the 2018-19 state budget bill and with a projected surplus exceeding $1 billion, you can bet there will be a lot of ideas put forward for new investments. GOP leadership is already indicating there is unlikely to be any significant bonding package until 2018 and that tax cuts will be a major focus.

Minnesota has a looming individual health insurance crisis to address. There is a transportation system statewide that requires new investments to support economic success. We have an incoming federal government that could potentially have major impacts on Minnesota policies. Our veterans, public school systems, nursing homes and prison systems all demand financial commitments. We have policy issues that we ought to be focusing on in areas such as racial inequities, clean water, sustainable energy solutions, higher education improvements and targeted economic development enhancements.

From the perspective of a legislator in the minority party, it is important to temper expectations of your community. As much as I would love to tell you we are going to accomplish many good things for Duluth and for Minnesota, the reality has to be acknowledged. The concept of reaching across the political aisle is only effective if the majority party allows it. We will try, and try hard, to be effective. We will watch for opportunities and I will work every day to advance the priorities of this community.

Amongst all the partisan drama, there are opportunities to solve real problems that affect real people in their everyday lives. Constituent services is an opportunity to help citizens navigate the sometimes complicated world of state agencies. If you ever have a question or need help, just let me know and we will help where we can. I am not here to just represent the Democrats of Senate District 7, but rather everyone in the district who needs any assistance at all. Even if we disagree on policy or politics, I can still offer help in circumnavigating processes.

And let us not forget, with 2018 will come another challenge for Minnesota in the form of a governor's campaign without an incumbent. I imagine the field of potential candidates will grow in the coming months and there will be a lot of discussion about "what is best for Minnesota."

I like to believe Minnesotans know what is best, not any single politician. Already I am hearing about the need for a governor with strong negotiating skills and equally as strong leadership qualities that result in good job opportunities and money in your pockets. So for now, I will be listening to your ideas and opinions and doing all I can do to bring positive solutions to not just Duluth, but all of Minnesota. Minnesota has come a long way in the past few years and we can continue to make progress if we all work together.

Erik Simonson

Erik Simonson, DFL-Duluth, represents District 7 in the Minnesota Senate. He may be contacted at (651) 296-4188.