by Dennis Dalman
The Covid-19 pandemic has caused a multi-billion-dollar state surplus to plunge to a multi-billion-dollar state deficit, and that will be the biggest challenge in the near future, said State Rep. Tim O’Driscoll (R-Sartell), who is up for re-election Nov. 3.
“That will be the top priority during the 2021 legislative session – dealing with that large budget shortfall,” O’Driscoll said. “Part of that process will include finding ways to manage Covid-19 and continue to keep our economy moving, as well as allowing our students to safely return and stay in school.”
O’Driscoll, 56, has been elected to five consecutive terms in the State House, representing District 13 B, which includes parts of Stearns and Benton counties.
Currently a corporate trainer for Kaplan Professional Schools, he served as Sartell’s mayor from 2007 to 2011 and previous to that as a Sartell City Council member.
A graduate of Sartell High School, O’Driscoll earned a degree from St. Cloud State University, having majored in business education and real-estate planning and development. He worked as a training manager for a securities broker/dealer, as well as real-estate broker and salesperson. He is also currently a trainer for those seeking licensure in real estate and insurance in Minnesota.
For Newsleader readers, O’Driscoll commented on many state issues, among them the following:
If the pandemic recedes or is eradicated, long-term challenges the legislature must start working on are funding for roads and bridges and increasing resources for the state’s public safety needs. Resources must also be increased for a planning process for future state and national emergencies.
“I would like to see the state move to a pandemic management phase,” he said. “I would also like Gov. Walz to take a more holistic approach moving forward by including the Legislature more in the Covid-19 management process.”
Students need to return to school, said O’Driscoll, because if they don’t, they will miss out not just on in-school learning but also on the social interaction and benefits of working on problem-solving with their peers, which is a great lifelong skill, he added.
O’Driscoll said he is optimistic job losses will decrease and employment will increase as pandemic issues and fears subside.
A Republican-led insurance measure allows individuals to purchase insurance in the private market, he said.
“That plan should be renewed as it has been remarkably successful and has proven to help keep insurance rates manageable for those seeking insurance in the individual market.”
Bipartisan legislation, he noted, was approved in both the State House and Senate in July that includes forming task forces to learn about improved options and better identifying areas of specific need for issues of police brutality.
“Regardless of one’s opinion on climate change, there have been many laws passed over the years that are improving our environment and protecting our natural resources,” O’Driscoll said.
Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle, he said, are optimistic there will still be time to approve a capital-investment proposal this year. The “good news,” he noted, are funds in the 2020 bill to make improvements at Linear Park on the Mississippi River at Sartell and also funds for road improvements in the medical campus area of Sartell.
“That is welcome news,” he said, “as it will increase access to the clinics in this area, as well as helping to make the area more attractive since we now know that HealthPartners plans to close their Sartell clinic.”
“Taxes,” he said, “have not been increased in Minnesota, but the state is facing an ever-growing multi-billion-dollar shortfall. The sooner Gov. Walz makes recommendations on budget savings, the more time the Legislature will have to soften such budget impacts.”
In 2021, the state will have to face a significant deficit, he noted.
“Knowing many area residents are struggling financially due to the Covid-19 pandemic,” he said, “I will be looking for ways to balance our state’s budget without tax increases.”
O’Driscoll said he is proud of working on priorities for District 13B for the past 10 years – priorities such as middle-class tax relief, helping lower the costs of health care and delivering record levels of funding for road and bridge repairs without raising taxes or fees.