Regular work has been hard to come by for many electricians in the Twin Cities. Todd Tvrdik, a member of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 292 in Minneapolis, has been out of work since February. Tvrdik said he thinks state government could help him and about 700 other union members who need a job.
"I guess I don't understand all the ins and outs of politics," he said. "But it just seems to me that it doesn't matter which party you're from, but the main thing is just a better way of life."
Tvrdik and other union workers claim many potential jobs were lost earlier this year when Gov. Pawlenty vetoed a transportation funding bill, a bonding bill, and a tax bill that included incentives to expand Thompson West and the Mall of America.
DFL lawmakers at a Capitol news conference offered a harsher assessment of the Republican governor. Senate Majority Leader Larry Pogemiller, DFL-Minneapolis, blamed Pawlenty for Minnesota's new unemployment rate of 4.7 percent.
"He is my governor also, and I support my governor in trying to move our state forward," he said. "But I and others need to stand up and say when he's wrong. And his economic development policies are clearly a failure."
Officials with the state Department of Employment and Economic Development reported earlier this week that Minnesota lost 6,600 of its roughly 2.7 million jobs in October. The biggest losses were in the education and health services catagory, which was down by 3,200. The state also lost 2,700 manufacturing jobs and 1,300 professional and business services jobs.
Gov. Pawlenty said the economy is slowing nationwide, and Minnesota's job growth is similar to most states in the upper Midwest. Pawlenty said the state has some work to do, but he rejects the DFL approach to job creation.
"What you have from my friends in the DFL is a proposal in a highly taxed state to raise taxes even higher," he said. "And their solution to economic challenges is 'let's build more government stuff, and then hopefully that will improve our economy.' In the long run that won't work, and history has proven that."
About half of the states, including Minnesota, had unemployment rates that were statistically close to the national average. There were 18 states with significantly lower rates, and eight states that were measurably higher.
Historically, Minnesota has enjoyed an unemployment rate comfortably below the national average. And state officials are looking for ways to regain that prior standing.
"There isn't much you can do in the short term," said state economist Tom Stinson. He said there are few quick fixes available to lawmakers. He said the state's economy is like a large, slow-moving barge. But Stinson said there are long-range job creation strategies for Minnesota to consider.
"One of the things that I think we have to be concerned about is whether we're investing enough in research and development in the state, whether we're keeping on the cutting edge of those new product developments that we have," he said. "And so that may be an area where it's not going to turn things around in the next year or two years, but five, 10, 15 years out in the future, that may be where we need to be thinking about."
Several lawmakers, as well as the mayors of some Minnesota cities, are urging Pawlenty to call a special session to address legislation that would create jobs, repair roads and bridges and provide property tax relief for homeowners. But Pawlenty says a special session is not needed. The regular legislative session begins in mid-February.