Rural Minnesotans Loose Clout At State Capital

By KBJR News 1

January 11, 2013 Updated Jan 11, 2013 at 7:34 PM CST

St. Paul, MN (NNCNOW.com) - A new study indicates rural Minnesota's voice has been lost, but some state lawmakers from the Northland disagree.

The lawmakers from more rural areas say they're reinforcing the strength of their communities' economic and cultural importance.

Balancing the state's budget is the hot topic of the year, but several rural Minnesota officials say they want important issues that involve communities outside the metro area to not be left off the agenda.

Big cities in the state seem to get all the attention, at least according to a recent survey.

The Center for Rural Policy and Development, says rural Minnesota has a declining influence in the decision making process.

"Legislators have gotten too ideological and they are more interested in partisanship than in representing their territories."

The study includes research from policy and business leaders and views of Minnesotans involved in rural issues.

With a billion dollar deficit, people in rural areas are realizing the impacts of the state's cut–backs.

"That maybe was an idea in the past that some people had. But, it's really an idea that has come and gone. The state government is—they have to keep cutting down and cutting back to the essentials and those in rural communities can't necessarily count on the state to ride in and start fixing things."

Werner says as populations shift toward larger cities, an imbalance is created in legislative seats, which means less pull for those in small towns.

So the question is, are rural lawmakers responsible for the loss of power for areas outside the Twin Cities.

Werner says politicians are partly to blame along with the concentration of rural communities.

"I think it's a much bigger issue with the sociodemographic changes that are going on with the population shifts and just the shift in power."

State lawmakers in rural areas say they are positioned well for what is to come.

"I think that greater Minnesota has come out really well in our committee structures and in leadership as well."

"Everything we do down here is about the state of Minnesota. While we have to advocate for our local districts and our individual needs, we still have to work with everybody else."

Because the agenda at the session will include topics on tax reforms, education, jobs and the potential for a bonding bill.

The CRPD says if rural Minnesota falls behind the state on an economic and cultural level, the entire state will suffer.

So for leaders speaking up during this legislative session is essential.

Justin Reis, NNC.
jreis@kbjr.com