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Viewpoint: Minnesota must keep moving forward

It has been an honor to serve the residents of House District 57A at the Capitol for the past two years. I am pleased with the progress the Legislature made solving the challenges facing Minnesota. We balanced the state's budget by working across party lines and with the governor -- all without going into special sessions. The session also resulted in significant support for jobs, property tax relief, health care, education and environment. I am seeking re-election to continue to work on these important issues and to be a voice for working families of District 57A.

For the first time in 20 years we made a substantial investment in our ailing infrastructure system by passing the Safe Roads and Bridges Act that will invest $6.6 billion dollars in our state's infrastructure system over the next 10 years. This was bipartisan "pay as you go" legislation that will not burden future generations with the debt. Additionally it will create 33,000 jobs per year for the next five years. The bonding bill passed this session will put approximately 10,000 Minnesotans to work immediately on Minnesota's universities and infrastructure.

Since 2002, homeowners' property taxes have increased $1.6 billion. I supported legislation that reverses that trend. This past session we provided direct property tax relief for individual homeowners, approximately $60 million in aid to help local governments pay for services like police and fire protection, and established caps on property tax increases at 3 percent.

One in five Minnesotans spend more than 10 percent of their income on health care. The health care reforms we initiated this past session will lower the cost of health care for those who have coverage, will give access to thousands of working Minnesotans who do not have health insurance, and reward high-quality providers.

A world-class educational system is the key to a successful future. I supported $850 million in new state funding for Minnesota schools and increased accountability and reform in education. We provided additional funding for voluntary all day every day kindergarten and Early Childhood Education Programs, because investing in children at a younger age will make them more successful in their later educational years. We need to ensure that the money we invest in education will produce students who are ready for higher education and the world of work.

In order to have a well-trained workforce, we also need to have affordable higher education options. We ended many years of double-digit tuition increases on working families. The legislature increased financial aid, expanded the Minnesota GI bill and allowed tax deductions on higher-education related expenses.

Legislation was implemented to clean and preserve our environment. I was a co-author of the "Renewable Energy Standard," the "Global Warming Mitigation Act" and the "Green Solutions Act." I supported an increased investment in bioscience development for sustainable green-collar jobs. I am proud to have received a perfect voting record from Conservation Minnesota.

Our area has faced some hardships. The Wakota Bridge was horribly mismanaged by the administration and inexcusably over budget. Our communities came together and demanded that the bridge not be further delayed. As a result, we will have a new bridge completed in the fall of 2010. We will continue to have town hall meetings to discuss and meet the challenges of possible water contamination. I will continue to ask the tough questions to make sure our water is safe and clean.

We have made great progress over the past two years, but much more needs to be done to continue to move Minnesota forward. Together we can build a stronger community and more prosperous Minnesota. I ask for your support and vote on Nov. 4.

Karla Bigham is the incumbent seeking reelection for District 57A representative.