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February 26, 2009     Tri-County News
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Page 12 Miche|ie Hschbach Minnesota State Senator Week in review: Feb. 17-20 The one and only budget plan The House and Senate DFL began a series of hearings on the Governor&apos;s budget last week. Meet- ings were held in Albert Lea, Alex- andria, Bemidji, Brainerd, Duluth, Little Falls, Mankato, Marshall, Moorhead, Rochester, St. Cloud, Virginia, Willmar, Winona and Worthington over the weekend. Meetings in Bloomington, Burnsville, Coon Rapids, For- est Lake, Minneapolis, Plymouth, St. Paul, White Bear Lake and Woodbury will take place this week. "Green jobs" Last week, some lawmakers introduced a plan to develop and expand "green jobs" in the state by laying the groundwork for spending federal stimulus dollars on energy-efficiency projects for state and local governments and school districts. One of the group's goals is to create a state body that would help workers looking for green jobs. In addition to funding energy conservation projects for government offices, the bill would direct some of the stimulus money toward weatherizing the homes of low- and medium-income Minne- sotans, loans for renewable energy projects and incentives for water recycling. They estimate that 20,000 new jobs would be created and 50,000 jobs would be retained by 2020 if their proposals are adopted. Federal Stimulus Funds We are starting to get more information about funding spe- cific to the states under the fed- L’00als £.4' Government Thursday, February 26, 2009 Tri-Countv News • Kimball, MN eral stimulus package signed into law last week, and what the one- time funding to states may mean to individual Minnesotans. According to Minnesota Man- agemenr and Budget Commis- sioner Tom Hanson, who is coor- dinating the receipt of funds for the state, Minnesota could receive more than $4 billion in funding through 2011, not counting tax cuts and credits for individuals and families. As state lawmakers, our first concern is what we can do for the gap in the state's budget, which is now approaching estimates of $7 billion. About $2.8 billion will impact our general fund, including $1.8 billion in dedicated medical assis- tance and Medicaid matching funds. However, much of the fed- eral aid comes with strings that prevent cuts in health-care eligi- bility. There is also funding intended to delay school-related cuts, pos- sibly pumping $1 billion into Min- nesota schools and work-train- ing programs. We have yet to sort out where that funding will go, but expect well over half to go directly to public schools, colleges and uni- versities. It is also expected that 100,000 Minnesota college stu- dents will qualify for higher Pell Grants. More than $550 million is ear- marked for transportation proj- ects, mostly roads and bridges that are "shovel ready," or ready to go in 120 days. Fortunately MnDOT has been preparing for an influx of federal funds and should be able to take advantage of the full offering. Other funds are targeted to energy programs, sewage treatment and clean drinking water programs. Most Minnesotans will qual- ify for the "working family tax cut" for up to $800 this year and next, which will be received through lower withholdings on paychecks. You may also qualify under an expansion of eligibility for the child tax credit, a first-time home- buyer credit and a $2,500 college tax credit. In addition, the pack- age contains credits for business losses, extension of deductible cap- ital depreciation, and a deduction for state sales tax on vehicle pur- chases. Other federal assistance is under "competitive grants" for state programs, organizations and businesses. One of the biggest concerns is that state lawmakers take seri- ously that the money we get from the federal government is one- time and only serves to partially cushion the blow of the strug- gling economic situation in the next few years. We cannot make future commitments that will hurt our economy again as we work for long-term recovery. Senator Michelle Fischbach is serving in her 5th term in the Min- nesota Senate. She encourages and appreciates constituent input and can be reached at (651) 296- 2084, by mail to 145 State Office Building / St. Paul MN 55155 orvia e-mail at <sen.michelle.fischbach@ senate.mn>. Minnesota deer poachers plead guilty Two southeastern Minnesota men are facing stiff fines and pen- alties after pleading guilty to 2007 charges of taking deer by spotlight and taking big game in closed sea- son. John D. Lurken, 19, Owatonna, and Jacob L. Marquette, 20, West Concord, recently pied guilty in Dodge County District Court and had their hunting privileges revoked for three years, placed on probation for two years, and ordered to pay fines/restitution totaling $1,600 each. Minnesota Department of Nat- ural Resources conservation officer Phil George of Mantorville received a call from the Dodge CountySher- iff's Office Dec.14, 2007, of a person shooting deer in a field near Clare- mont, Minn. George also received similar reports from the Minnesota Turn-In-Poachers (TIP) hotlineand in the course of his investigation found three dead deer lying in the field. A number of .22 caliber shell casings were found along the road- way near the field. It was reported that more than 40 deer were staying there during this time. At 1 a.m. Dec. 20, 2007, George received a call that a Dodge County deputy had stopped a truck near the field for shining and shooting a deer. The truck was impounded, and two .22 caliber rifles and a spotlight were seized. Lurken, Mar- quette, and another man, Jon-Erik Meier, 20, also of Owatonna, were transported to the Steele County jail on gross misdemeanor charges of shining. In addition to taking deer by spotlight and taking big game in closed season, Lurken and Mar- quette were also ordered to com- plete 30 hours of community ser- vice and complete a DNR firearms safety class. Meier was fined $158 in court costs and received a stay of prosecution for one year on terms that he has no same or similar vio- lations. The investigation found that Meier never took part in the shining or shooting of any deer. TIP is an important partner. To report poaching, call TIP hotline number (800-652-9093). Two guilty in 2007 poaching case. 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