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Lieutenant governor candidate makes a stop at GOP dinner

Republican lieutenant governor candidate Annette Meeks confers with Chip Cravaack, the 8th District GOP candidate for Congress, at this week's Hubbard County Republican annual dinner. (Jean Ruzicka / Enterprise)

Annette Meeks, the endorsed Republican candidate for lieutenant governor who's running with Tom Emmer, made a stop in Park Rapids Monday, arriving for the Hubbard County GOP's annual dinner.

Jobs, she said, are the key concern voiced by constituents. "We need to keep people where they wish to live," she said of the state's rural areas losing population to urban centers. "It's sad. We're at a point where we have to do something.

"We need to expand opportunities in farming and small business; not relocate," she said in an interview preceding the dinner.

Meeks and Emmer have been participating in "listening sessions" around the state, learning for example of a Clay County farmer who was looking to expand his feedlot operation. But his lawyer soon informed him the permit would come with a hefty quarter million dollar price tag, and the process would be completed over a two-year timeframe.

The farmer headed west, to North Dakota, where he completed the permitting process in six months, at a fraction of the cost estimated in Minnesota. The company has a $1.4 million payroll. "We lost those jobs."

Emmer, she said, is promoting the Next Minnesota Miracle, a new government model for the state of Minnesota. "Why should people have to pay to expand a business?" she questioned of the third-generation Minnesota farmer whose business plan was stymied by bureaucracy.

Meeks cited a "big showdown" near Ely where mining samples are showing "tremendous opportunity" for tapping minerals, a Chilean company purchasing the rights.

Mining in the area would create 2,000 jobs for construction with "hundreds of good union jobs" to follow, she said.

But in the 11th hour, the project met another hurdle, environmental activists asking for an additional Environmental Impact Statement.

"When jobs leave small towns, it has a profound effect on the community," she said, citing the impact on schools.

Meeks suggests small towns consolidate departments and outsource to counties.

"There is a lot of redundancy in government. Minnesota has more local units of government than any other state," she said.

Emmer has been criticized for his plans to reduce local government aid.

"But the old way of administering LGA clearly won't work," Meeks said.

Emmer is the author of the Minnesota Fair Plan, a bill that would eliminate the current practice of allocating LGA resources by city. He is proposing a system of pooling LGA funds by county and placing responsibility for the distribution of such funds to the county commission.

"We don't have a revenue problem," Meeks said. "The problem is that spending is expected to grow dramatically."

Costs for K-12 education, she said, are expected to remain steady. But health and human services spending is expected to see a "tremendous" increase. "We need to reinvent government." LGA, known as the Minnesota Miracle 40 years ago, is no longer considered to be a revenue sharing marvel, she said.

Government needs creativity, she said, and a willingness to work together. We need surgical cuts; not broad based ones."

Emmer has stated, "To end budget deficits, you need to cut spending. Trim the fat. When a family experiences a change in its income, that family adjusts its budget accordingly. If they have less money, they spend less money. This simple form of money management is completely lost on state government. Standing in the way of real reform is how government balances its budget. It spends first, and then seeks the funding.

"The state's largest employers are now the State of Minnesota, our public university systems, and the federal government," Emmer said.

"Rising taxes, decreasing value, and more business mandates and regulations have killed the entrepreneurial spirit that has been the hallmark of our state for so many decades," he said.

"We're at a crossroads in Minnesota," Meeks said. "We can continue on the same path or redesign - by choosing Tom Emmer.

"It's time for a change."

(Meeks pursued a degree at the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis, and graduated from the American Campaign Academy in Washington, D.C., an educational organization that specialized in teaching campaign tactics to members of the Republican Party.

She served as deputy chief of staff for House Speaker Newt Gingrich during his time in office. She later served as chief executive officer of the Center for the American Experiment, a conservative think tank, and as the vice chair of the Republican Party of Minnesota. She is the founder and president of the Freedom Foundation of Minnesota.)