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As the Minnesota legislature approaches the 2013 session and the issue of the budget, it's helpful to remember that in July 2011, state government came to a standstill after the regular legislative session ended in a stalemate over how to solve the state's budget crisis.
Yet that same month, 130 ordinary Minnesotans proved it was possible to transcend their differences and decide together how to move forward.
They met in Grand Rapids, Bloomington and Rochester gathering across many walks of life and political beliefs to be part of Citizen Solutions Forums. Together they put aside their differences, found their shared values...and reached consensus on balanced budget solutions that refused to "kick the can down the road."
These citizens, plus 600 others who participated in a scientific poll, agreed on four key points:
It took a special session for state leader to arrive at a solution that most said they were not happy with. The majority of individuals who attended the forums, however, were able to set aside their differences and reach consensus within a few hours. Their achievement underscores one of the Foundation's core beliefs: Often the best solutions to public problems lie in the shared experience and collective power of everyday citizens willing to work together.
We're pleased to share with you the outcomes of these Citizen Solutions Forums in the hope that other Minnesotans will take up where they left off...and that as state leaders begin their biennial budget conversations in January 2013, they will follow the example of those who participated in the forums and transcend their differences to work together.
Interested in learning more about the background, outcomes and next steps?
Watch this brief (and we think entertaining) video that sets the stage well.
Participants received information about the state's current budget crisis and a budget balancing worksheet that offered them the same options lawmakers had.
We invited Twin Cities Public Television to sit in on one table discussion at each forum to capture the conversations (watch the video, right).
The brief written report on the outcome of the sessions shows that Minnesotans are hungry for a new era of shared values, long-term vision and a common future.
In addition to convening the forums, we also contracted with Wilder Research to poll 600 Minnesotans about the state budget crisis.
Coverage by the press began with the first forum and continued through the release of the report. You can also read our press release.
Citizens Solutions’ greatest impact will be in its potential to inspire more conversations, like these, at community centers, in chat rooms and around kitchen tables throughout Minnesota, particularly as the legislature is once again addressing budget issues in its 2013 session..
Here are some of the things you can do to get involved: