April 14, 2010 | Austin Post Bulletin | Original Article

Commentary: There's much at stake in the 2010 Census

Every 10 years, the U. S. government conducts a Census to count every person living in our country. This is not an informal endeavor, but rather a very important count that has the potential to bring significant benefits to our state.

For example, approximately $400 billion in Federal funds are allocated based on the Census count. For every 100 Minnesota residents who fail to answer the Census, Minnesota will lose $1.3 million in federal funds over the next ten years. In addition, many state program funds are allocated based on population counts.

Counties, cities and townships where residents fail to answer the Census will lose additional state dollars. This federal and state funding affects jobs, our economy, health care and education.

Census data is used by businesses, governments, schools and non-profit agencies to help create programs and business and service plans. The information tells them who their customers are, where students will live and what the greatest needs will be. Here are some of the other ways the Census information is used:

• Attracting new businesses

• Planning for hospitals, nursing homes, clinics and the location of other health services

• Analyzing military potential

• Forecasting future transportation needs

• Planning for school projects

• Forecasting future housing needs

• Planning for public transportation services

• Creating maps to speed emergency services to households in need of assistance

Finally, without the registration of every Minnesotan in the 2010 Census, Minnesota may lose a seat in the U.S. House of Representatives, lessening the voice our state has in creating laws that affect us daily. We are within 1,100 votes of losing this seat, which equates to about 20 people in each district. A low Census response will shape future budgets in Minnesota and our representation in Washington D.C. for the next decade.

Filling out a Census form is one of the obligations that comes with living in this country. In fact, residents are required by law to return a Census form, and could actually be penalized for not doing so.

By now, it is likely most households have completed and returned their Census forms, which were due on April 1st. If you have not, I would encourage you to spend 10 minutes and fill your form out as soon as possible. Census workers will visit households that do not return forms to take a count in person.

If you are interested in tracking how our district and state are doing, you can track responses by visiting this site: http://2010.census.gov/2010census/take10map/. To get a new form, call the census bureau at 1-866-872-6868 from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. seven days a week. You can also pick one up at some locations such as city halls, public libraries and community centers. Though April 1 was the official census day, census officials will be working for months to round up forms.

Earlier this session, I proposed legislation designed to address costs at Minnesota State Colleges and Universities (MnSCU), both by reducing spending and reorganizing the central office. Several components of that bill have been incorporated into a larger omnibus higher education policy bill. Language defining the specific duties of the Central Office is included, as well as language directing the MnSCU Board of Trustees to develop and implement a plan to improve credit transfers within the system.

The Central Office is also being asked to streamline services to reduce costs, better target the use of state resources, and provide services more efficiently to reduce duplication. By implementing these changes, it is expected that not only will service be maximized, costs will also be reduced. This bill was passed out of the Higher Education Committee, and awaits further action on the House floor.

Please continue to contact me with your questions and concerns. You can contact me by phone at 1-888-682-3180 or 1-651-296-4193, by mail at 487 State Office Building, 100 Martin Luther King Blvd., St. Paul, MN 55155 or via e-mail at rep.jeanne.poppe@house.mn. If you would like to stay more closely in touch with what is happening at the legislature, visit my website at http://www.house.mn/27B or the House of Representatives website at www.house.mn.