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Minnesota is on the verge of losing one-eighth of our voice in U.S. House

Minnesota is balanced on the brink. By the end of this year, we are likely to have a claim on one less seat in the U.S. House of Representatives.

A slowing population growth rate in Minnesota and gangbusters growth in places including Texas, North Carolina and Florida signal a coming shift from eight House seats for Minnesota to seven.

Great — one less politician to pay, so say some. But those folks are not only unclear about how Congress works, they are also, in the words of the president, “Wrong.” Minnesota’s seat doesn’t go away. It goes somewhere else.

Along with that seat will go one-eighth of our House voice in federal matters, including health care reform, defense spending and farm policy. It will diminish Minnesota’s impact on setting federal budget priorities, reduce our leadership positions on key committees and make us potentially less competitive for federal projects that could bring jobs to Minnesotans. It will also reduce our voice in the management of Minnesota’s significant tracts of federally owned lands.

It may also reduce Minnesota’s opportunities to elect our next great statesperson to a seat where he or she can gain deep knowledge and experience before going on to leadership on the national and global stage. The path to Minnesota producing the next Walter Mondale or Hubert Humphrey is about to be one lane narrower.

Already 35th in net federal funding per resident (for the curious, we received about $959 in federal spending per resident in 2017; Virginia received the most at $10,301, Connecticut the least with a net outflow of $4,000 per resident), Minnesota could see a smaller piece of that pie. If that means lower federal taxes, fine. But like the House seat, that money is not likely to be wiped from the budget. It will simply go elsewhere.

In short, there’s no scenario whereby a reduction in seats in Congress is a benefit to the state that experiences it. Is it a tragedy? No. But it’s something to be avoided when possible.

And there’s the rub.

There is little chance of keeping all eight of Minnesota’s seats in the House, having barely held on to them after the 2010 Census. The best estimates of the experts say we’ll come up about 21,000-25,000 residents short of keeping our eight House seats this time.

Make no mistake: Minnesota’s population is growing. In 2018, we gained about 33,000 residents, for a growth rate of 0.6%. But Texas grew its already significantly larger population at more than double that rate. It’s likely to add three seats to its already 36-member House delegation.

What hope there is to hang onto our eighth seat for the next decade lies in another government process that some view as waste, others ignore and some hold in suspicion: the 2020 Census.

The count is already under way in remote areas of Alaska. By April 1, every household should receive a Census notification with options to respond online, by mail or by phone. Follow-ups will continue through May as Census workers visit college students and homes where no one responded yet.

The stakes are high for getting an accurate count of Minnesotans. The consequences of not doing so are unappealing. So it makes sense to not only participate for your own family, but to spread the word to friends and co-workers, neighbors and coffee klatch partners.

Minnesotans are quite skilled at setting high expectations for one another and holding high standards for civic tasks, including voting and making charitable donations.

Put the Census on that list so Minnesotans are counted as accurately as possible. If we lose a seat in Congress, let’s at least lose it fair and square.

— St. Cloud Times

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