Legislative leaders met with several United Way of Greater St. Joseph partner agencies Friday to discuss legislative priorities and expectations for the 2013 session.

Sen. Dr. Rob Schaaf, R-St. Joseph; state Rep. Galen Higdon, R-St. Joseph; state Rep. Casey Guersey, R-Bethany; state Rep. Pat Conway, D-St. Joseph; and state Rep. Delus Johnson, R-St. Joseph, sat at the head of the forum as roughly 25 agency representatives spoke about past and upcoming legislation.

United Way Director of Community Investment Jodi Bloemker said local agencies took the opportunity to address concerns and learn about changes in the state administration.

“This is an opportunity for our agencies to learn from our representatives about what is happening at the state level, what will be occurring this spring, things they should expect, but also a chance for them to ask questions,” she said.

“This really benefits both our agencies and legislators to really get a feel for what our agencies each experience and questions about a specific concern legislators may feel affects our communities.”

Each legislator spoke briefly about their concerns before agencies asked individual questions. Mr. Johnson said forums give leaders a clearer insight into community needs.

“It’s important to listen to everyone’s concerns, especially this time of year, when we are looking at the budget and appropriations on the budget,” he said.

Mr. Johnson said balancing the state’s budget is never an easy mission to accomplish, but he looked forward to the upcoming session. Sales tax revenues have increased, so he hoped no drastic budgets cuts would have to be made.

“Resources are limited ... but with the increase in sales tax revenues, we hopefully won’t see the kind of cuts we saw in the budget we saw two, three and four years ago,” Mr. Johnson said. “There is a little bit of light over the horizon as we go into the budget process.”

Randy Sharp, director of operations with InterServ, said the forum was helpful and a good start to moving forward into 2013.

“I thought it was good that the legislators listened and talked about our concerns,” he said. “Hopefully we can find some common ground on issues with our agency and for our entire community.”

Kristin Hoppa can be reached at kristin.hoppa@newspressnow.com.

Follow her on Twitter: @SJNPHoppa.

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