Saving existing jobs- my first priority
Reapportioning the existing tax burden is critical. I would work toward the abolition of the IRRRB whose mission to diversify the iron range economy has been a failure. It is simply a slush fund for a small group of politicians, is inefficient management because of bureaucratic duplication, secretive, and is not accountable to St. Louis County voters where most of its revenue is generated and where it should be budgeted. We need to stop trying to prop up the iron range at the expense of placing a higher tax burden on viable Duluth area manufacturers and the jobs they create.
Furthermore, recent sulfide mining proposals will hurt employment in manufacturing, tourism, logging, fishing, and government. I will continue to work against higher taxes, higher health care costs, water subsidence levels, the subsidized power rate agreement between PolyMet and Minnesota Power and approved by the PUC in violation of MEPA law and Minnesota Fair Rate Law that costs every consumer and business from Silver Bay to Little Falls more for power, a loss in recreational opportunities, and the lower tax revenues that will result from sulfide mining to prop up Iron Range interests. One legislator has attempted to remedy the illegality of the PolyMet power rate agreement with new legislation that would allow for rate making to accommodate economic development HF2769 (Hackbarth).
Since the issue of funding has been brought up by iron range commissioner Keith Nelson for the repaving of highway 666 using county funds I am going to take the position that I will vote against repaving highway 666 using millions of county dollars or anyone’s good intentions. This has not been voted on because it would be in violation of MEPA which a group has already won a case against the county on because of the pending Environmental Impact Statement.
I would propose and work toward establishing the Duluth Zoo as a research zoo. It may be that the reason that we have invasive species in the great lakes is the absence of higher level predators. For example, Lamprey (on break, please check back)
Back when the technology village building was built the people of Duluth and St. Louis County were promised hundred and in some cases thousands of IT jobs. We need to hold politicians and the Duluth Chamber who endorsed the project to keep first promises first. Even though the idea of IT jobs was myopic in its scope I believe in the general idea of encouraging development through innovation. As County Commissioner I would start a program to use government money to subsidize government patent filing fees through a voucher system where residents of St. Louis County would get a two-hundred dollar voucher to pay filing fees toward the patent office’s three hundred dollar fee which currently serves as an impediment to economic development. This would be a first start toward diversifying our economic toward all forms of technology. Our clean water and recreational opportunities will help attract this type of job creator.
We can do a trade off on jobs. I would work to change the focus of our Forest Service. Currently, the Forest Service is allowing exploration for minerals in the forest adjacent to the boundary waters. If the federal government is sincere about helping us create jobs all they have to do is lift the restrictions on the number of people it lets into the BWCA. The lifting of this restriction will increase tourism in Minnesota. It will create more jobs in tourism and stabilize current businesses dependant on tourism. More tourists will cause less of an impact than mining exploration or mining itself. Some of the exploration impacts were highlighted in the May 30 issue of the Duluth News Tribune.
“According to the decision released Tuesday, the exploration area covers 38,704 acres but only 1,131 acres could actually be disturbed at mine drilling sites. Up to 278 new roads, 20 helicopter landing pads and up to 40 barge landings on lakes could be developed by the companies for prospecting, but all would have to be reclaimed when exploration concluded.”
These exploration areas are in areas in the Superior National forest right on the doorstep of the BWCA. How many tourists would it take to equal the impact of building 278 new roads?
Sale of mineral interests
Since under my plan we would have no need for creating mining jobs we could sell surface estate owners back their mineral interests. this would easily generate hundreds of millions of dollars in extra revenue for the state and county.