Herald JournalWinsted-Lester Prairie Journal, Dec. 9, 2002

Kielkucki to tackle state budget as ass't. majority leader, again

By Ryan Gueningsman

"I'm glad it's you, and not me," a colleague told Rep. Tony Kielkucki upon learning of Kielkucki's re-election to the assistant majority leader position in the house of representatives.

This was said after learning of the state's $4.56 billion budget shortfall, Kielkucki said.

In the midst of being re-elected, Kielkucki will have a big task ahead of him as he works with governor-elect Tim Pawlenty to try to tackle the deficit.

The assistant majority leader position is gained by being elected by a 60 percent vote of the House Republican caucus members, which took place last Monday.

Kielkucki has been in this position since 1999, and is in his fourth term at the legislature.

"It's an honor and a privilege to have been chosen once again by my colleagues," Kielkucki said. "I look forward to assisting our majority leader and the speaker of the house during the upcoming session."

The assistant majority leader is primarily responsible for helping set policy goals, and giving directions and advice to other members of the house.

"We're still organizing for the new legislative session," he said. "It's too early to tell yet how this shortfall is going to directly affect our area. I plan on sitting down all of the local units of government to see where they are at, and what needs to be changed."

The first thing that will have to be looked at is the immediate $356 million deficit for 2003.

"Every budget will have to be looked at to see where you can cut, and where you can't," he said. "We'll have to take care of this fiscal year first. It won't solve the whole problem, but it will be a start."

The new legislative session officially begins Jan. 6, although Kielkucki and many of the other recently elected or re-elected representatives have been working since the week of election to prepare.

"We'll be up and running, and ready to go," Kielkucki said, "but it's going to be a challenge."

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