In an effort to provide constituents with an update on some of what is going on in St. Paul as part of the 2013 legislative session, to answer questions and to hear concerns area representatives District 16 Sen. Gary Dahms and District 16B Rep. Paul Torkelson hosted a series of public meetings, including one in Belview and one in Redwood Falls this past Wednesday. More than 30 were in attendance at the meeting at the Pizza Ranch in Redwood Falls.
A number of topics from health insurance exchanges to budget cuts to health and human services programs were discussed.
Steven Kohn, Services Enter-prises Inc. (SEI) executive director, talked about a proposed cut that would dramatically impact SEI.
Kohn said the budget proposal includes $150 million in cuts to a program SEI utilizes.
“I think it’s a huge mistake to make this cut,” said Torkelson, adding it makes no sense to in-crease the budget and yet cut an existing program that is making a difference in the state.
Torkelson and Dahms both said they would be keeping an eye on the cuts but added because they are in the minority they are not “driving the train” and do not have the kind of influence they may have had during the past two sessions.
When asked if they would support a minimum wage increase, Dahms said it is important to clearly define the difference between minimum wage and liveable wage.
He said the minimum wage is the amount one earns per hour and when the bottom per hour wage is increased all subsequent hourly rates go up as well. A liveable wage is what people need to live.
Dahms added 6 percent of the workforce earns a minimum wage, and he would support a small increase.
Torkelson said he would also support an increase but nothing in the $10 area as has been proposed by some.
Neither said they were in favor of automatic in-creases, either.
Dahms and Torkelson both opposed the health insurance exchange program, as they believe in the long run it is going to do more harm than good.
Both Dahms and Torkelson thanked those attending the meeting and encouraged constituents to contact them with any concerns.