Special session needed in St. Paul, major action needed in Washington

The news of Northshore Mining idling their operations in Babbitt and Silver Bay on Dec. 1 was a direct hit to the area’s economy. What’s needed now is a combined approach from state and federal elected officials to solve what could turn into a major downturn for the Ely area.
We support Gov. Dayton calling a special session to extend unemployment benefits for taconite mine employees. There are likely to be 1,000 families that will be directly affected, and once the benefits run out they will be forced to make some tough decisions.
The last thing our area needs is to see families pack up and leave. Our schools can’t take it, our businesses can’t take it and we can’t take it.
There’s some game playing going on with what is to be discussed in a special session. Senate Majority Leader Tom Bakk and Dayton have discussed including narrowing Minnesota’sracial disparities in the special session agenda.
According to Bakk, “DFL Senators feel it is important we begin to address the complex, multifaceted drivers of persistent unemployment and increasing poverty levels experienced by many black Minnesotans in any potential special session.”
Unless this special session is going to be measured in months instead of days, adding that to the agenda is unlikely to be productive.
We appreciate GOP House Speaker Kurt Daudt trying to get the state to move ahead on projects like PolyMet to help fuel a long-term solution for job growth. But just like the racial inequality issue, this is not likely to be productive discussion in a special session.
Get the unemployment benefits extension passed and at the same time, put the pressure on Washington D.C. to help the Range and the country’s steel industry survive.
If something is not done to lessen the import of cheap steel to our country, the United States will be without a steel industry. Think about that one for a minute.
We’ve already exported jobs for everything from customer service centers to building iPhones. Do we really want to lose the asset of being able to build cars, bridges, buildings and water lines?
Rep. Rick Nolan has jumped out with a proposal to ban importing steel to the U.S. for five years. Is it overly aggressive? Likely. But maybe it’s the kick in the pants bill that moves less controversial solutions forward.
We would like Sen. Klobuchar and Sen. Franken to come up with definitive lines of action to go with their news media statements.
The time to act is now. We as the Iron Range, we as the state of Minnesota, we as the United States need to stand up for steel and for our manufacturing independence. We have the natural resources, we have the plants and mills, we just need the political will and might to do what’s right.