DFL leader charts change in direction

House Minority Leader Margaret Anderson Kelliher came to Park Rapids last week, not only to campaign for Rep. Brita Sailer but also to talk about what the DFL would do if it regains control in November.

House Minority Leader Margaret Anderson Kelliher came to Park Rapids last week, not only to campaign for Rep. Brita Sailer but also to talk about what the DFL would do if it regains control in November.

"Minnesotans want positive leadership and positive change," Kelliher said. "They want their Legislature to focus on the issues and values that matter to all Minnesotans - a great education for our kids, access to affordable health care for everyone, protection and enjoyment of our environment, a fair tax system and a stronger economy."

She said the party offers "a new, positive direction" for the state.

Voters have "a clear choice" this November to move away from more of the same - over-crowded classrooms, rising health care costs, exploding college tuition, sky-rocketing property taxes. Instead, she said, "we can refocus on the issues and values that made Minnesota a success in the first place."

Kelliher lives in Minneapolis, but grew up on a dairy farm west of Mankato. "I had a great education," she said, "but I was a pretty average kid - not from a political family."


It was the farm crisis in the 1980s and its impact on her family that made Kelliher start asking questions about how decisions are made. She pursued her interest in public issues at Gustavus Adolphus College in St. Peter where she majored in history and political science.

She married a man from Boston and they moved to a Finnish neighborhood in Minneapolis. This year she is running for her fifth term in the House.

"We're thrilled to have Brita in the Legislature," she said. "She has led on the issues and is an advocate for this district. That is what our job is," Kelliher said.

"There are no more important issues than education, health care, jobs and the cost of higher education. Those are the things we as Democrats focus on.

"People are sick of divisive politics. They want to get back to what's made our state great."

A DFL-controlled House, she said would:

n Work to provide affordable health care coverage for all Minnesotans, including children and seniors.

n Guarantee excellent educational opportunities for every child,


n Cut Minnesota property taxes,

n Reduce the tuition increase of the past four years and tackle student debt,

n Dedicate funding for outdoor habitats, wetlands and waters,

n Pass a Renewable Energy Standard and reduce fuel costs, and

n Provide government reform and accountability.

"These are the things we would pursue," Kelliher said, addressing each point and how it could be accomplished.

"We not only need to work on project, but we also need to be looking ahead," Sailer added. "We need to move forward."

"For too long, Republican leaders in Minnesota have been content to merely manage the state's problems," Kelliher added.


"We've reacted to challenges like the deficit, rather than addressing the underlying causes. We've seen the results," she said. "Just 'managing' isn't good enough any more. We need a new direction and new leaders willing to tackle these challenges head on."

Kelliher emphasized investment in the DFL's priorities does not have to require tax increases.

Either the conservation amendment, a ballot question that would increase sales taxes, or rededication of lottery proceeds are ways to invest in hunting, fishing and recreation again, she said. Funding for these things has fallen 30 percent in the past four years and has affected people's enjoyment of our natural resources and the economies that rely on tourism, Kelliher said.

According to the Kelliher, the legislative auditor has reported the state has $1 billion in uncollected income taxes. By enacting legislation toward compliance, the state could get $300 million or $400 million back, she said.

DFLers also have been trying to close the loophole, which has allowed corporations to operate in foreign countries and avoid paying taxes. "We need to make sure they are paying their share," Kelliher said.

"These are ways we can work toward making strategic investments in our state."

Finally, she said, DFLers would bring back equalization of property tax levies in the state and lower property taxes. To reduce education levies, they propose increasing equalization levies and for cities and counties, they would look at local government ad to make sure communities have an equal shot to have the communities we want.

"Democrats want to do this without creating winners and losers. We want to do what's fair for the whole state and to have property taxes reduced," she said.


"Our plan is about getting back to the basics," Kelliher said, "and to position us to be strong for the next decades."

"With Democrats in charge and with Brita, we can get things done that are critical to our lives."

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