Some voters disappointed in legislators, state of state

Louis Ferguson
Northfield resident Louis Ferguson, 86, said he doesn't think lawmakers grasp the reality of the tough times so many people are facing.
MPR Photo/Mark Zdechlik

In Gov. Mark Dayton's second State of the State speech Wednesday evening, he called on the Legislature to pass a public works bill, a new Vikings stadium plan and a tax credit aimed for businesses that hire new workers. He also repeatedly used the word "please" throughout the speech.

Before the speech, some Minnesotans were asked to assess the state of the state. MPR News went back to Lonsdale, Minn., just southwest of the Twin Cities, a divided political area we visited during last summer's state government shutdown.

In July, as state government offices sat idle, the people in Lonsdale did not hold back their contempt for the gridlock.

"This is ridiculous," said Judy Davis. Though a Republican, she believed both Republicans and Democrats were to blame.

"They are acting like school-age kids in a playground," Davis said. "You know, grow up."

Rosie Stepka voted for Dayton, a DFLer, but like her Republican neighbor, Stepka wasn't interested in pointing the finger at the other party.

"I blame both sides, and I don't think they should get paid while they're, you know, discussing this," Stepka said.

Seven months later at the same little restaurant, there is still unhappiness over the situation at the state Capitol.

Harold Kuchinka, who owns a local insurance company, said state leaders could address the job shortage and Minnesota's long term budget problems — if they would just work together.

"They have to quit this bickering back and forth. They got to start realizing that, yeah, we've got a a two-party system, but two parties can fix this if they just got together," Kuchinka said. "And I think, personally, they should spent a lot less time on this stadium thing. You know we've got a lot of debt that we're carrying, so why are we spending money on something that we probably don't really need."

Kuchinka said he's a conservative who voted for the Independence Party candidate for governor in 2010. Still he credits the governor's efforts.

[image]

"I'm not a Mark Dayton fan, but I have to say that no matter who would have stepped into this mess would have had a problem anyway and one person can't do it that's why they've all got to try to work together," Kuchinka said. "I think Dayton has tried to keep them working together, but it just hasn't — it hasn't worked."

A KSTP/Survey USA poll released earlier this month showed 50 percent of registered Minnesota voters approved of Dayton's job performance. In the same poll, just 17 percent approved of the Legislature's performance.

At Fred's IGA Foods in Lonsdale, Lindsay Tschida, 26, said she tends to side with Dayton over state lawmakers.

"I don't know why, I just feel that he's doing a better job and I feel like maybe they're kind of holding things back," she said.

All of those interviewed at the grocery store talked about the need for more jobs. Most said they thought the government can help. Tschida said she thinks if lawmakers worked on the jobs issue more closely with schools and businesses, voters would have more respect for government.

"I think that if people think that the government is helping them with jobs, they may have more positive views about the government," Tschida said.

Louis Ferguson, 66, of Northfield, Minn., said he doesn't think lawmakers grasp the reality of the tough times so many people are facing.

"They need to get out behind that desk and get out on the road and look and see where these people are having a hard time," Ferguson said.

Although he is concerned about government spending, Ferguson said it would be a good idea for lawmakers to put some money into putting people to work.

"If you go back into the '40s where they had the WPA and that, they had, you know, construction work and stuff like that," Ferguson said.

"They could also turn it into things like Habitat for Humanity. Maybe they're not paying a lot but they could get people working and they'd feel a lot more better, you know."

There are signs the economy is improving. Minnesota's unemployment rate of 5.7 percent is almost 3 percentage points below the national rate. Jobs remain a top priority for Minnesotans. And, according some people in Lonsdale, many don't think state government is doing enough to help.

Mark Zdechlik, Minnesota Public Radio News, Lonsdale.

Your support matters.

You make MPR News possible. Individual donations are behind the clarity in coverage from our reporters across the state, stories that connect us, and conversations that provide perspectives. Help ensure MPR remains a resource that brings Minnesotans together.