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ISSUE 120 VOL 6 PUBLISHED 11/3/2006

Representative Ray Cox discusses environment

By Andrea Horbinski
Staff Writer

Friday, November 3, 2006

On Tuesday, Oct. 31, State Representative Ray Cox addressed St. Olaf students at the weekly Political Awareness Committee (PAC) dinner. Cox was elected to represent eight towns in Rice County, including Northfield, and three towns in Scott County in 2002. He spent most of the evening discussing his legislative accomplishments so far and future challenges he hopes to tackle after his hopeful re-election next Tuesday.

Cox belongs to three committees in the legislature: He sits on the transportation and higher education finance committees and is vice-chair of the environmental committee. Cox emphasized his environmental achievements repeatedly; among other things, he has secured legislation to reduce mercury emissions by removing more than 90 percent of the mercury emissions from the three largest coal-fired power plants in the state, with a total emissions reduction of 1,200 to 1,300 pounds less per annum. He also supervised the renewal of the state’s conservation reserve enhancement program.

Discussing challenges facing the legislature in the next session, Cox spoke about the difficulty of funding cleanup of Minnesota’s rivers and lakes to put the state in compliance with the federal Clean Water Act. The cleanup will cost $75 million, but one version of the bill which put a graduated tax on water pipe connections to fund it already failed in the legislature in this session. Cox also discussed more long-term challenges in the state’s future, such as the changing demographics involved in the aging of the "baby boomers" generation. As boomers grow old, everything from paying for long-term care to the state’s tax base will have to be re-evaluated. He also emphasized the state’s desperate need for a comprehensive transportation bill covering roadways and transport systems. One version of the transport bill, which passed in the legislature, was vetoed by Gov. Pawlenty in 2005. Cox also asked students to vote “yes” on the ballot question which would dedicate 100 percent of the current motor vehicle tax to transportation, rather than just the current 54 percent.

When asked to define the biggest differences between himself and his opponent, Cox reiterated that he does not support universal healthcare and does not believe that the state’s revenue base needs to be radically expanded, "by and large," although he has voted for some tax increases (including the gas tax). He also said that he and David Bly disagree on the "social-wage-social-thing," saying that, although he voted to increase the minimum wage, given a choice he would change the formula by which it is calculated or abolish it altogether.

Cox also spoke of his "ability to carry bills and to build coalitions," attributing to that his endorsements by the Sierra Club and by other environmental organizations.

When asked about the perception that he has been campaigning aggressively at St. Olaf, Cox emphatically denied that he had campaigned aggressively, saying that he had actually campaigned less here than in 2004. He campaigns on the Hill because "you’re my constituents," and "I care about what your thoughts are."

Cox said that it is difficult to hear what students’ thoughts are without coming up the Hill, since students rarely go down to the other public forums he holds. To better know student opinion, Cox would like to hold public feedback forums on campus while legislature is in session next year.

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