Address: 16160 201st Ave NW, Big Lake, MN 55309
Family: married to Ralph Kiffmeyer with 4 children and 16 grandchildren
Education: Graduate of St Gabriel’s School of Nursing, Little Falls.
1. Briefly summarize your personal background and qualifications.
My past experiences as a registered nurse, board member, Treasurer and Chair of the Big Lake Monticello Community Hospital District Finance Committee, Chair of the Big Lake Community Education Advisory Council, member of the Big Lake Legion Auxiliary, Founder and Chair of the Spud Fest Coloring Contest, taught bread making classes for 16 years at the Big Lake High School and volunteered for numerous events from peeling potatoes to calling Bingo numbers.
Have been a small business owner and served as the Minnesota Secretary of State.
Leadership and serving my community are essential experiences and life lessons for my work as a State Senator.
2. What is your biggest accomplishment in public life?
Putting my constituents first is most important. I consider getting funding for Highway 169 to remove stoplights and increase the better flow of traffic and protecting local road access including the pedestrian overpass to be a major success that took many years of hard work with really good local, county and state engineers, transportation officials and local Chambers of Commerce business members. Transportation overall including many large projects like expanding I-94 to six lanes from Maple Grove through Albertville was a major success. I was Chief Author of both bills using the state-funded Corridors of Commerce Program.
3. Top priority: If elected, what is your top priority for the 2021 Legislature? Why are you running for office?
My top priority for the 2021 Legislature is balancing the state budget without raising taxes or fees using technology and system reforms. Secondly, protecting funding for school districts.
4. COVID-19: How do you grade the state government’s response to the pandemic? Are additional measures necessary? If so, what?
The initial response to Covid-19 is a B grade. We needed to have an emergency reaction for the first month. Since then a D because of the unfair and inequitable application of Emergency Powers by the Governor, keeping Minnesotans in an unnecessary sustained state of Emergency Powers beyond the need, fines applied excessively to the slightest non-conformity to emergency powers orders and shutting out the legislature which is the voice of people all across the state. Treating rural Minnesota the same as the Twin City is unfair.
5. Gridlock: What specific measures do you support to reduce the increasing partisanship of the lawmaking process and resulting gridlock? Do you support reforms that would prohibit consolidating multiple subjects into a single omnibus bill?
Contrary to reports in the media, the Legislature has many unanimous bi-partisan bills that are worked on in an agreeable manner, but little covered in media since conflict seems to be their coverage preference. I support reforms to restrict the subject matter of Omnibus bills that should be broken out into smaller subject areas to more specifically reflect the content and voting records.
6. Budget: The Legislature will be tasked with adopting a two-year budget in 2021 with a looming shortfall due to the financial impact of COVID-19. What will be your approach to balancing the budget in terms of reducing spending and/or raising taxes and fees? Be as specific as possible.
The 2021 Legislature can balance the state budget without raising taxes or fees using technology and system reforms. In the past years, state government has greatly increased the number of employees and budgets. Technology and reform of management can get us to the state budget needed to do only those things necessary for government. Funding Minneapolis for the riot destruction those city leaders allowed to happen is not something the rest of Minnesota taxpayers should pay for.
7. Education, K-12: COVID-19 resulted in dramatic changes to the delivery of education. What weaknesses in the system were highlighted by distance learning? Did we identify any best practices that should be incorporated in the post-pandemic era?
Most important lesson is that not all students succeed in a zoom or not-in-person teaching method. One best practice is to schedule individual short sessions for those students. However, best practices that can help all students is still a lesson being learned. The legislature needs to listen to parents, students not just teachers, administrators or school board members when looking at improvements. I will be sending out a survey to all these groups to get their input prior to the legislative session.
8. Education, higher education: Prior to the pandemic, many employers were challenged to find qualified workers. Now we’re faced with unemployment as many businesses are downsizing or closing. Is our higher ed system equipped to pivot and train workers for the changing business landscape?
Our higher education system is designed for four year degrees with a knowledge focus rather than a skill application focus. Most highly-skilled jobs today do very well and provide good pay, good benefits with a Technical or two-year degree that is more cost-effective as well. The second two years can still be gained while working a good-paying fulfilling job. Our technical system is very strong and well prepared for the needs of today. It will take many years for any four-year college systems to catch up.
9. Health care: Affordable health care remains a concern for many Minnesotans. Do you support the expansion of government-run health insurance plans? If not, what options do you support to stabilize health insurance premiums?
I oppose government-run systems leading to less doctors/providers/rural hospitals/less care/long waits/rationing. Instead improve the private market by:
1- Allowing Direct Primary Care so people can choose/contract directly with the choice of their doctor and combine that with major deductible insurance.
2- We have stabilized the private market from the premium increases of 30-40-50% to modest no-increase to 4.2% for 2021 premiums using the Re-Insurance Program which was used previously in MN for 30 years.
3- Re-import drugs from countries like Canada, Ireland or Israel that meet FDA requirements without disrupting the strong research and development that has provided excellent treatments.
10. Workplace regulations: Mandated paid family and medical leave for all Minnesota employers were debated in 2020. It passed the House but failed in the Senate. Do you support such a mandate? Why or why not?
Mandates are ineffective solutions. Costly to implement, costly to run and usually a one-size-fits-all approach which leaves many unserved. In the mandate for paid family and medical leave, it is even worse. I do not support the $2 Billion mandate on employers and employees, creation of a new large government agency with un-named powers to regulate and requiring a new software system. What could go wrong there? It also included new definitions for family such as unrelated friends who live together.
11. Transportation: What is your preference for raising additional money for roads and bridges? Or is current funding sufficient?
I oppose raising the gas tax. Other sources of energy such as electric or natural gas, should be fairly paying in to the system. There is a great amount of construction that is already funded under current law. It is good policy to use auto-related sales tax (which already generates more revenue every year) in addition to gas taxes for roads and bridges. In the future, truck, bus and commercial related sales-tax revenue (and other vehicles like natural gas or electric) should be included as they use the roads and should pay into the road and bridge fund.
12. Energy: Should Minnesota increase its renewable energy mandates on utilities? Or are market forces sufficient to promote sustainability?
Energy conservation is alive and well amongst Minnesotans. Since energy is critical to our everyday lives, we should never become dependent on a single source of energy. We need all options run with environmentally safe methods including gas, propane, electric, wind, solar and nuclear and allow the private market to direct how fast and what sources of energy work best.
13. Police reform: Police reform has become center stage in the aftermath of the George Floyd death and prompted passage of legislation during the special session. Did the laws go far enough or too far? Should the Legislature take additional measures?
Police accountability was passed in a special session in 2020 which puts policies in place already in place and supported by my local police officers in Elk River, Big Lake and Sheriff’s departments in Sherburne and Wright County. I am very proud of their high quality community protection and service. I absolutely do not support defunding or eliminating those who serve us so well.
14. What, if any, local initiatives or legislation do you have in mind if you are elected?
I always talk with local leaders and constituents to hear their ideas for legislation. Most of my agenda is driven by input from my district. The top request is to balance the state budget without raising taxes or fees. The ongoing use of Emergency Powers by the governor eliminates local initiatives/legislation. I am currently working on a digital notary bill that allows secure signatures during Covid for transfer/sales of property. This is especially important to the elderly in nursing homes. In 2021 I will continue to work to put it in place for the future.