I'm encouraged to learn that Minnesota's projected budget deficit is shrinking. State economists now say the projected fiscal year 06-07 budget shortfall has been reduced from $700 million to $466 million.
This is another sign that Minnesota's economy continues to slowly but surely rebound. This good news is due to the tough choices lawmakers made last year when the state faced a $4.5 billion deficit. Our plan is working.
Modest increases in projected receipts from individual income tax, corporate income tax and sales tax account for all of the additional state revenue. State expenditure estimates are nearly identical to November's forecast.
The increased revenue and law changes have also given Minnesota a $175 million budget balance for 2005. This money is allocated by current law, as $25 million must replace money taken from the budget reserve for FY05 spending enacted in the current session; and $150 million must be used to further reduce school aid payment shifts.
Legislative committees will use these latest budget and revenue figures to formulate general fund spending priorities. Committees in the House will have until the middle of April to finalize finance bills in each of their respective areas, from K-12 education to health & human services.
Minnesota's unemployment claims have dropped significantly and our unemployment rate remains below the national average. This is obviously welcome news and shows our state is headed in the right direction. We must continue policies that enhance Minnesota's business climate and create jobs and revenues here at home.
Rep. Paul Gazelka
C-I: You already have quality
From an outside point of view, the teachers in Crosby-Ironton are doing everything they can to settle their contract so they can get back with their students. They have an open door policy for the school board and superintendent to begin talks again. They have not released information about the last bargaining session to the public as directed by a state appointed mediator. They have held out and will continue to hold out for a fair and equitable contract that they deserve; they are not asking for a contract the district cannot afford.
The school board and superintendent are doing several things to inflame the situation. They have chosen to ignore the willingness of the teachers to get back to the table. They immediately released information from the last bargaining session in the form of a letter to all parents. This is a severe violation of the Rules of Mediation, and should be legally challenged! The district isn't being honest to the public about their finances and will finish this year well out of statutory operating debt. They have hired scab teachers with little or no experience in the field and have chosen to pay them three times what a regular substitute can earn. Every chance they get they are driving wedges between the community and the experienced high quality teaching staff.
It is time for the residents of the Crosby-Ironton school district to demand the truth about the District's finances, and not buy into the "shell game" occurring in the budget. Support your teachers! A strong community begins and ends with the quality of the school district, and that only comes with quality teachers. You have quality teachers. Tell the school board and superintendent to return to the table and offer your quality teachers a quality contract.
Teachers want to talk contract
I am a Brainerd teacher and I have been supporting the Crosby teachers by doing what I can to help them out. Today I witnessed a student transferring to a Brainerd school. It was his first day, and he was having a very difficult time. This transition was obviously hard for him, which in turn I am sure made it hard for his parents and his new teachers. When I saw him and the adults that were trying to console him and help him out I was filled with emotions. This strike has been very difficult on everyone in the Crosby area. The teachers and their families plus the students and their families are suffering greatly.
Being a teacher myself and knowing some of the teachers in Crosby, I know that teachers look out for the best interest of the students. They want to be back in their classrooms. They want to be with their students. They want to meet with the school board to determine a fair settlement. They want the strike to be over.
I would like to urge the Crosby-Ironton School Board to meet with the teachers to continue working on coming up with a fair settlement. The union has reserved a room at the Crosby library nightly, and have been waiting and hoping school board members would show up to discuss the contract.
Please, Crosby-Ironton School Board, do it for the students.
Congratulations to C-I boys
"Kudos" to the boys basketball team from Crosby-Ironton on making the decision to continue playing in the tournament despite not having their regular coaching staff because of the teacher's strike.
In 1992, the International Falls teachers were on strike and our son was on the hockey team that decided to continue playing despite the strike. Even though they did not win their first game at sectionals, at least they knew they tried. It was a very trying time in our children's lives, especially for the seniors on the team. The decision to continue without their regular coaches was not an easy decision.
For the children's sakes, I hope and pray that the Crosby-Ironton school board and teachers will settle their differences soon. The longer the strike the more bitter feelings will occur. We still have a "bitter" taste in our mouths and it has been 13 years.
Jerry and Martha Karsnia
Jealousy and the C-I strike
As I read the letters to the editor this evening I realized just how small many people are. Instead of being happy that many others had, through past negotiations, provided for their future, they are jealous and would rather have the results of the planning and hard work of others taken away instead of questioning why they didn't get a similar benefit. It has always been the case of when the union gets a benefit, then the lot of the working nonunion worker also improves. The union worker seldom complains about this, in fact union representatives are working for a higher minimum wage for everyone at this time. I seriously believe that there is serious outside support to break this strike as an example and precedent to help in other union contracts that the state wants to break.
Speaking of Social Security
Points to consider when thinking about the Bush plan to privatize Social
1. Bush says that the system will experience its first shortfall in 2018 but the bipartisan Congressional Budget Office says that the system can pay full benefits for nearly half a century (2052).
2. Transition costs to privatize Social Security are commonly estimated to be $2 trillion over the next decade. The government will have to borrow to cover that cost. It will be repaid by you and your children through higher taxes.
3. More than 99 percent of our country's Social Security revenue goes toward benefits while less than 1 percent goes for administrative fees. In Chile, the administrative fees run as high as 20 percent. In England, investment companies levied such high fees on private accounts that the government imposed a charge cap on those companies. Argentina's switch to private accounts that had to be financed with government borrowing, rather than taxes, resulted in the nation's worst economic crisis ever.
4. Bush also wants to base Social Security benefits on inflation rather than on wages. According to the Social Security Administration's chief actuary, such a change would cause a middle class worker retiring in 2022to see guaranteed benefits cut by almost 10 percent, those retiring in 2042 would see benefits fall by more than 25 percent
5. A few simple and reasonable changes to the existing program such as raising the $90,000 income cap slightly would make Bush's proposal unnecessary. That wouldn't affect the great majority of Americans but would have a significant effect on the health of the Social Security system. The only losers would be the big investment companies and insurance companies.
Check these points out for yourself and then contact your representatives in congress and let them know what you think.
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