Rural economy in spotlight at state level
Most of the recent high-level discussions about rural Minnesota have centered on Iron Range problems created by a weak American steel industry, but even state leaders who live near where miners are laid off stay it is just part of a statewide rur...
Most of the recent high-level discussions about rural Minnesota have centered on Iron Range problems created by a weak American steel industry, but even state leaders who live near where miners are laid off stay it is just part of a statewide rural problem.
"There is an issue of our rural economy," Senate Majority Leader Tom Bakk, D-Cook said. "You go all across these rural towns and we are going to have to discuss what we can do."
While broadband is important, Bakk added that extending high-speed Internet service is not a cure-all for rural Minnesota.
"We still have to figure out how we can add more value to the natural resources we have," Bakk said.
On the range, one taconite mine was supposed to also host a steel-making plant, but that never happened. A controversial copper-nickel mine using home facilities of an old taconite operation also is touted as a way to boost the economy.
Whether it is agriculture, forests or taconite, Bakk said, "you have got to work with those assets that we have."
Sen. Tom Saxhaug, D-Grand Rapids, told a committee Thursday that better use of natural resources is what will help rural Minnesota.
GOP: 'Talk to us'
Republican lawmakers have been vocal about what they see as a lack of communication from Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton when he sought a special legislative session.
Perhaps most vocal was Rep. Denny McNamara of Hastings, who was hot in a meeting that was supposed to lead up to a special session.
"They want to politicize everything," McNamara told two of Dayton's commissioners in the room to discuss Iron Range unemployment.
"These folks are being held pawns by this administration," he said about miners.
McNamara complained that no one from Dayton's office attended the meeting. However, Commissioner Katie Clark Sieben of the Department of Employment and Economic Development said that she and Commissioner Mark Phillips of the Iron Range Resources and Iron Range Rehabilitation Board represented Dayton.
Still, McNamara said that Dayton's staff should have "reached out to us" before Thursday's meeting. He said he had heard nothing, and gave his telephone number in case Dayton or someone from his staff wanted to communicate.
Dayton said McNamara, chairman of an environmental committee, is not a key player in unemployment issues, so there was no reason to specifically contact him.
Davis covers Minnesota government and politics for Forum News Service. Read his blog at capitolchat.areavoices.com/ and follow him on Twitter at @CapitolChatter.