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People must give input on state budget

Minnesotans face tough decisions that potentially will affect their way of life. State government must be reformed, as new predictions to be made in early March could show the state with nearly a $7 billion budget shortfall for the next biennium - a budget that lawmakers are now at work determining what's best for Minnesotans. If so, that will mean some 22 percent of the next state budget will have to be either cut or solved with new money.

Add to that a national economy that is in recession, with perhaps some sort of relief coming through the $787 billion stimulus package. Still, the economy won't turn around anytime soon and Minnesotans, as well as all Americans, are in for a rough ride.

Gov. Tim Pawlenty has put forth his budget for the next biennium budget, a proposal that will need to be updated when the new budget forecast is in. Legislative Democrats have yet to offer an alternative, but there has been plenty of criticism of the governor's budget - such as it will put 113,000 Minnesotans off state-subsidized health insurance and huge cuts in state aid to cities will force higher property taxes and reduced public services.

What should state government be, and what are the priorities that state citizens want?

The Minnesota Legislature is holding town hall forums across the state to find that out from state residents. There was one Friday in Bemidji.

A lot of special interests will want to testify at these forums to save various programs or jobs of interest to them. But it is important to hear from citizens - taxpayers - on what they want their state government to do and what results or outcomes they expect.

There will be a meeting with State Rep. Brita Sailer and Sen. Rod Skoe Saturday, Feb. 28 at the Frank White Education Center in Park Rapids. They welcome taxpayers' input about the issues that are important to them.