Fischbach beginning first full term in Senate

This article submitted by Molly Connors on 1/7/97.

"I think it's our opportunity to change somethingó to really do some good," Sen. Michelle Fischbach said about welfare reform.

Fischbach feels welfare reform is the biggest issue facing the Minnesota Legislature in 1997.

Quite simply, unless these legislators figure out a plan to put a given percentage of welfare recipients back to work by a given date, the state will lose all of its federal welfare dollars. These people don't have to be put back to work by the end of the legislative session, but the plan must be submitted to the federal government by midsummer, Fischbach said.

The plan will put a greater percentage of people back to work each year. When this eventually plateaus, every welfare recipient will not be working, but more will be employed, Fischbach said.

Several facets of the new welfare plan are long overdue. Teenage mothers will be considered working if they are attending school. Also, the plan won't "set up young teenagers in apartments," Fischbach said. Instead, the teenagers will be required to live with a parent or other responsible adult who will act as a role model.

The welfare reform will probably include pieces of the current programs. Fischbach would like to see the state "start from scratch," since she feels old programs bring preconceived notions which may confuse people.

In the entire area of welfare reform, Fischbach said Minnesota is "ahead of the game," since the state has already been working on welfare issues.

Constituents have two main complaints with the current property tax system: business taxes are too high and the system has too many classifications and needs to be simplified.

So far, Fischbach hasn't seen any stand-out plans for property tax reform. She has heard of a couple proposals. Whether or not these will pass depends on how hard the people behind these proposals push them.

In education, the cuts won't be a problem, Fischbach said. For one thing, the legislature is going to give back the $75 per pupil unit that it took away a couple of years ago. This brings schools back up to "normal" levels, Fischbach said.

Governor Arne Carlson is expected to push his technology in the schools program. Basically, he wants more computers and internet access in schools. And he wants this program funded.

Educational tax credits are also on the governor's agenda. These are an alternative to the much-debated vouchers. Under the proposal, the tax credits will be available to anyone, not just private school students and their families. If parents bought a computer for their child, or paid for tutoring, they could deduct this expense, or get tax credit, according to Fischbach.

In other areas, Carlson will promote his crime package, which includes a "boot camp" at Camp Ripley, a military training reservation north of Little Falls. These camps would be directed toward juvenile delinquents in their earlier stages and used as preventive measures. Another part of Carlson's crime package is hiring more state patrol officers.

Finally, there's the stadium issue. The Minnesota Twins are "still looking for a package deal" where they can get a new stadium, Fischbach said.

The Twins' complaint is that they aren't making enough money. They aren't making enough money because the Metrodome, which isn't 20 years old, was built to favor the football team.

In her travels through District 14, Fischbach heard only one constituent voice approval for the new stadium. Everyone else is "adamantly opposed" to the idea. She has heard many different suggestions on how to finance the proposed stadium, including taking the stadium cost from the players' paychecks.

The most popular methods for stadium financing are a hospitality tax on the Twin Cities and state bond sales. If the stadium is approved, the money could come from the state's general fund, Fischbach said.

Minnesota's professional sports players are already "paid huge, ridiculous salaries," Fischbach said. With issues like welfare reform and the need for education funds facing the state of Minnesota, the stadium is "not for the good of the people."

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