Reprinted from Eden Prairie News, October 07, 2010
by Jenifer Loon
After being elected to represent District 42B for the first time two years ago, Jenifer Loon feels like she’s just warmed up. As freshmen legislators go, she’s had a productive two years – passing legislation that allows flexibility in how small businesses and individuals buy healthcare and successfully passing a bill that calls for a study of the fiscal disparities program that impacts Eden Prairie. She was recently named one of the Municipal Legislative Commission’s Legislators of the Year:
“I’m ready to go back and be even more effective the second time around,” said Loon, a Republican who is facing off against DFL candidate Ray Daniels. She and other legislators have their hands full with a dismal economy and looming budget deficit.
If re-elected, Loon 47, wants to continue to work on looking at the business climate in Minnesota and what policies we could enact to encourage more businesses to relocate to the state.
When it comes to an economic recovery there may be shoots of growth, said Loon. “I would still say that our economy is quite fragile,” she added. “Raising taxes in a somewhat fragile economy, in my opinion, is not necessarily the best thing we could do.”
There’s a lot of uncertainty about federal tax rates and health-care reform effects, she said. Businesses are starting to assess how they may be affected by all those changes. With all of that uncertainty, businesses are reticent to take the next step, she said. Keeping that in mind, whatever the state can do to try to keep a stable tax and regulatory environment is pretty important, she added.
Loon is proud of the work she did this session involving health care, specifically legislation that will expand the number of small businesses that have more flexibility in the health-insurance packages they purchase. This legislation will increase the pool of those who have that as an option to them, she said. It passes with “bipartisan support.”
What she is not as satisfied with is the progress made to address the General Assistance Medical Care program. The amended program that emerged from the Legislature is still a work in progress, she said. “If it works as we intended it to work, we will try to encourage people to get into health care earlier,” said Loon. The goal behind the changes to GAMC (which typically serves the poorest of the uninsured in the state) was that hospitals would not be managing these individuals’ health care from crisis to crisis. Loon said they may still have to tweak the GAMC program as it goes along, “It has not been awful,” she said about the results. “we may have to make some adjustments.”
Loon has heard good things about the use of merit pay programs in teaching, specifically the Q Comp program that Eden Prairie uses. “I think it is good to recognize your exemplary teachers, ” said Loon. Loon would like to see more control at the local level in general when it come s to school policy.
There are a lot of frustrations out there when it comes to the funding formula for students, she noted. Some districts get much more per pupil, compared to Eden Prairie. She concedes the funding formula “doesn’t make a log of sense.”
She would like the local school board to have more control on how they spend the budget; things like mandates on staff development funding should be left up to the board to make decisions on.
In general, Loon seems eager to get back to work. Her top issues are jobs and the economy. “It’s what’s No. 1 on people’s minds,” she said.