The state’s constitution requires lawmakers to enact a budget that’s balanced for two years. Johnson said the Legislature and governor need to start looking at the projected impact beyond the required two years of balance — which would make it harder to settle for short-term fixes.
State leaders, rather than being stuck in crisis mode year after year because of recurring deficits, could actually focus on needed reforms in state government if the budget is stabilized in a lasting way, he said.
“Minnesota can start thinking, ‘Where do we invest for a better future?’ I really think that’s the issue of this session.”
Beyond budget balancing, Johnson said there are some projects District 19A desperately needs. Expanding Highway 14 to four lanes all the way from Rochester to New Ulm is a top priority with a special focus on the stretch of two-lane between North Mankato and New Ulm that has been the site of numerous fatal accidents.
“We as a community collectively suffer those tragedies,” he said. “Enough of that.”
The importance of the corridor for the local economy is also a compelling reason for the upgrade, Johnson said.
He’s similarly adamant about quick construction and remodeling at the St. Peter Regional Treatment Center to eliminate blind spots and other poor design that leaves staff vulnerable when dealing with the mentally ill and dangerous population housed there.
“We ask our neighbors to work there. We put patients in there ... They’re dangerous people, there for a reason. ... And we don’t make it safe.”
Johnson said he would also be supportive of state bonding for Mankato proposals, such as the civic center expansion.
He said he would be a strong advocate for education, from early childhood programs on up, because education is what allows Minnesotans to improve their lot in life. And he would support economic development aimed at young entrepreneurs, particularly joint public-private financing to provide capital for expansion.