NEW ULM - Local Republican legislators Rep. Paul Torkelson and Sen. Gary Dahms, who won re-election on Nov. 6, plan to stay the course on their legislative priorities as they adjust for working with Gov. Mark Dayton and the DFL majority in the Legislature.
"It was definitely disappointing to be moving from a majority to a minority," said Torkelson, "But, we can still do plenty of work for the district."
He said that the silver lining in the election was that Dahms also won, allowing them to continue to work together at the Capitol.
Torkelson, who serves in House District 16B and is from Hanska, said that because a minority party does not control the gavel in committees, its role is focused on improving the bills the majority puts forward and challenging anything they consider a deficiency in the bills.
"I plan to still pursue efforts in areas I'm familiar with. I worked with both sides of the aisles for several bills last year, which will pay off while working in the minority," said Torkelson.
Dahms, who represents Senate District 16 and is from Redwood Falls, and Torkelson said that the budget and ending the remaining deficit would be the big focus for the 2013 session.
"I expect it will go smoother this year. But, that doesn't meant it will necessarily be easier. It will depend a great deal on the state revenue forecast," said Torkelson.
Dahms and Torkelson remain strongly opposed to any tax increase to balance the budget, but they said they were more open to introducing other revenue sources.
"Now is absolutely the wrong time for [raising taxes]," said Dahms.
Torkelson said he hoped there would be a serious look at reforming the state's tax system to make it fairer and less complicated.
Both legislators do not expect any highly contentious legislation like the Vikings stadium bill.
Torkelson plans to prioritize looking at nursing home funding, which he said is currently insufficient to meet many needs. He also plans to focus on water and water regulation legislation.
Dahms said he was going to focus on health care services, particularly on improving funding because many health care workers have gone without pay raises for several years. He said he would particularly focus on the unfair funding formula difference between rural and metro areas. He also said he considers job growth as a long-term solution to increasing state funding, which he said would ultimately be applied to local concerns such as funding Highway 14 improvements.
Both legislators said they were unsure whether the state's school funding shift would completely be paid back due to the budget shortfall. Dahms said he was sure that at least a sizable portion would be returned to schools.
"We're just looking forward to getting back to session and back to work," said Dahms.
(Josh Moniz can be e-mailed at firstname.lastname@example.org)