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State House, Senate races, State Senate, House seats 29 & 30

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Both the Minnesota State House and State Senate are up for election this year. In the two districts that serve the Monticello and Big Lake area, all four incumbents are seeking re-election.

In House Dist. 29B, Republican incumbent Marion O’Neill is running against DFLer Joe Rosh. In Senate Dist. 29, incumbent Republican Bruce Anderson is being challenged by Chris Brazelton, the DFL candidate. A Grassroots Legalize Cannabis candidate, Mary Murphy, is also on the ballot. District 29 includes Monticello, Buffalo and Maple Lake in Wright County.

In House District 30A, Republican incumbent Paul Novotny is being challenged by Chad Hobot. In Senate District 30, incumbent Republican Mary Kiffmeyer is facing DFL candidate Diane Nguyen. District 30 includes Big Lake and neighboring communities including Elk River.

Candidates were asked for biographical information, including name, address and professional background. Each was also asked about involvement in community service groups/organizations and if they had prior city, county, or school civic service.

Each candidate was then offered the following series of questions. The answers as received by deadline follow.

1. Why are you running for office?

2. If elected, what is your top priority for the 2021 Legislature?

3. What do you see as the top issue in your legislative district?

4. How do you grade the state government’s response to the pandemic? Are additional measures necessary? If so, what?

5. 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.

6. 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?

7. What is your preference for raising additional money for roads and bridges? Or is current funding sufficient?

8. Wild card: Write anything you’d like to say to voters on topics we haven’t already asked about.

Marion O’Neill

P.O. Box 372, Buffalo MN 55313

Occupation: Former Business Owner

Community service groups/organizations, Legislative boards/commissions:

Currently: Legislative Energy Commission, Interstate Adult Offender Supervision Advisory Board, State Advisory Council for the Interstate Compact for Juveniles, Wright County Drug Court Steering Committee, Buffalo Hospital Community Engagement Advisory Committee.

Past: Unemployment Insurance Advisory Council, Central Minnesota Mental Health Center Board, Wright County Jail volunteer, Buffalo Food Shelf Board, Buffalo Community Education Recreation coach, Buffalo Evangelical Free AWANA Program Director, Buffalo Evangelical Free Angel Tree Director.

Finally, I have received the following endorsements so far this year: Minnesota Police and Peace Officers Association (MPPOA), Minnesota Citizens Concerned for Life State PAC (MCCL), National Federation of Independent Business Minnesota PAC (NFIB), Minnesota Gun Owners PAC, Housing First Minnesota PAC, and Minnesota Farm Bureau PAC.

Why running: It has been my sincere honor to serve the people of House District 29B for the past eight years. I have served four years in the majority and four years in the minority and have found incredible success in both. I have affected changes in transportation funding which created the Corridors of Commerce Program that finally funded the first expansion segments of the I94 corridor outside of the Metro. I expanded specialty courts across Minnesota and funded them which paved the way for the Wright County Drug Court. I negotiated what everyone thought were impossible regulatory reforms to allow streamlined private investments, turning on 5G in Minnesota, the first in the world. I worked across the aisle to make “revenge porn” a criminal offense.

The more I dive deeply into an issue area, the more I discover what needs to change. I have made strides on laws surrounding sexual assault over the last six years and if not for COVID, would have passed my test all rape kits bill into law, obtaining justice for victims and putting serial rapists behind bars. I have also worked on “alternatives to Incarceration” in collaboration with Minnesota Adult and Teen Challenge (MNTC). According to Department of Corrections (DOC) data, between 85 and 90 percent of those incarcerated suffer from an addiction. If the addiction can be addressed, criminality drops. For non-violent offenders who have multiple technical violations, sending them to treatment instead of incarceration addresses the underlying causes of their criminal behavior. The program is still in a pilot phase and I want to see it through to full statewide implementation utilizing the incredible resources of MNTC.

Top priorities: Public safety, upholding our constitutional rights and protecting the sanctity of life from conception to natural death are my top priorities. In addition to seeking justice for victims of rape, I want to work on sex trafficking policies that empower our law enforcement to rescue women and children from traffickers who rake in billions each year. I have also been the lead on the Public Safety Committee to stop the “Red Flag” bill that denies due process, giving the government power to take guns from people who have not been found guilty of a crime. I am the Chief Author of the bill to stop taxpayer funded abortion, but in full transparency, to change this would take a pro-life majority in the House and Senate and a pro-life Governor. It would face legal challenges after being signed into law. On sound legal grounds, an argument would need to be made to overturn a previous ruling by the MN Supreme Court. Decades of Democrat control of the state have heavily stacked the odds in their favor and the MN Supreme Court has 5 of 7 Justices appointed by former Governor Dayton.

District issues: There are a few very important issues that I am still working on. Due to the political power struggles between the branches of state government and the deep deficit we now find ourselves in, the bonding bill and the tax bill for 2020 have not been passed by both the House and Senate. I have a noncontroversial provision in the tax bill that would allow a sales tax exemption for building materials for the new Buffalo fire station. I also have a provision in the bonding bill that would fund a portion of the new dental clinic located in the Wright County Government Center for patients using Medical Assistance (MA). Current MA reimbursements are below the costs for nearly all dentists and this new partnership with a community nonprofit would allow the new clinic to keep its doors open to serve our community at a time when most dentists can not afford to take new MA patients.

Pandemic response: I would not give the Walz administration a very high grade for his response to COVID or the riots. The COVID modeling used to make most of the early decisions was extremely flawed, predicting over 75,000 deaths. The purchase of the morgue in May was a $5.4 million waste of taxpayer dollars. The decision made by the administration early on to close the doors of nursing homes to family and friends but leave it wide open to contagious COVID patients to complete their recovery proved to be deadly. For months 80% of all deaths occurred in long term care facilities.

The riots, and lawlessness in Minneapolis, St. Paul and as far as Maple Grove was the straw that broke the camel’s back for me. Citizens were left on their own to defend themselves and their businesses, while terrorists destroyed block upon block completely unanswered by any semblance of law and order. The 3rd precinct was abandoned and burned to the ground. The Governor showed the same kind of leadership for the riots as he has throughout the pandemic.

The Governor’s recent decision to further bring heavy-handed enforcement and fines to bars and restaurants already hanging on by a thread was just the latest insult. Less than 3% of community spread can be traced to bars and restaurants according to Hospitality Minnesota.

Distance learning: 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 ear?

Our public school system has not been designed to be effective when done virtually. Simply holding a virtual classroom time and giving out assignments cannot give proper attention to all students of differing ages and maturity levels. When my now-adult children were in elementary school, I enrolled them both in the Minnesota Virtual Academy, an online public school, professional designed to virtually deliver cutting edge education. Each field of study was designed by successful professionals in those fields to lay the educational foundation to become a fellow professional of that field. We received books, supplies for art and science, a computer, printer, and other things we needed to start up an at-home classroom. There were daily lessons, mastery based quizzes and unit tests to ensure that they had mastered a subject before being allowed to move forward. Because their schooling was intentionally designed as an online program, and the students were able to learn at their own pace without worrying about lagging technology.

My son, who studied at the MVA from 4th grade through 8th grade, has now enrolled his own kindergartner in the school to give her a safe, consistent and dependable learning experience. I think the brick and mortar public school system could learn a great deal from the Minnesota Virtual Academy which has been in existence since 2001, serving the individual needs of students. Unfortunately, because of confusing guidance from the state and a delayed announcement about how schools would be allowed to hold classes, many schools have not put together effective programs. One needs to look no farther for best practices than schools like MVA specifically designed for an online learning environment.

Road/bridge funding: I have come to discover in my eight years elected to office and two years serving as staff in the Senate that one consistent state government issue is waste, fraud and abuse of taxpayer dollars. Transportation is no different. Let me give you just one example: the perfectly functioning rest stop at Harris on I-35 between the Twin Cities and Duluth was completely torn down, and transformed into a $7.4 million bathroom, suspended walkway, picnic area with cement tables and sculptures, and a small enclosed dog park. The building was no longer rectangular and functional, it is now two touching circles with curved floor to ceiling glass and imported Brazilian Ipe wood. I have stopped there and quietly listened to the sheer amazement of guests at its beauty, until they are told that over seven million taxpayer dollars were spent on it. At a time when families are struggling and our economy has been hit hard by the devastation of COVID and the governor’s response, I believe it is the wrong time to raise taxes for roads and bridges. If MNDOT justifies spending over $7 million on a bathroom, what else are they spending money on?

Wild card: This past biennium, Democrats have attempted to cut funding for nursing homes by $68 million, while increasing taxes on all Minnesotans by $12 billion – in the same budget. These are clearly not in line with the priorities of our district, and I plan to go back to the Capitol next year and fight for the values we all share.

Joe Rosh

2614 Meadow Oak Lane Monticello, MN 55362.

Occupation: History teacher at Monticello High School and Assistant Varsity Baseball Coach

Community Service groups/organizations: VFW Post 8731 Baseball Coach, Monticello Help Center/Kids’ Kitchen Volunteer, Monticello United Methodist Church Member, Monticello “Paws for Parks” Committee, Monticello Youth Basketball Coach, Minnesota Historical Society Member.

Prior city, county, or school civic service: Education Minnesota - Monticello President (Local 2010).

Why running: I am running for office to engage young residents and to fight for middle-class families. Additionally, I am running for office to draw attention to the importance of local politics. The reality is that those who represent you in state and local government make policies that affect your daily life much more than the President of the United States or Congress. Furthermore, state and local officials are accessible and responsive to your needs, or at least they should be. Finally, I am running for office because I see a need for investment in education, mental health issues, affordable healthcare, security for workers, and the environment, and I want the best for the residents of Buffalo, Maple Lake, and Monticello. I pledge to put people ahead of partisanship at the local level in order to get things done for the residents of District 29B and the great state of Minnesota!

Top priorities: I would immediately begin working with both Democrats and Republicans on a swift response to our mental health crisis. A crisis which has only grown worse with Covid-19. Mental health is not a partisan issue, it is a people issue. While speaking to teachers, school counselors, social workers, law enforcement officials and nurses, there is one common theme, we need to come together and do much more for our community members dealing with mental health issues. All individuals and families should have mental-health services that are responsive to their needs: social and physical barriers need to be reduced, access needs to be expanded in rural areas, and wellness and recovery programs (focusing on job training and community integration), need to be fully funded and expanded. By fully committing to mental-health care, we will free up time and resources for our teachers to teach, our nurses to care and heal, and our law enforcement officials to protect. More importantly, we will support some of the most vulnerable people within our communities.

Top local issues: I believe the most important issues facing our district center on families and security (jobs, healthcare, education). In order to strengthen opportunities for families I would fight for fully funded education. As a teacher, I daily get to see the most positive force in our community. Buffalo, Monticello, and Maple Lake public schools are the best representation of who we are; good, hard-working residents who rise to the occasion in times of need to make a difference in people’s lives. With all of this in mind, I am disheartened about the need to pass a referendum in order to maintain our schools (certainly I vote “yes” for referendums, but there is a better way). I am frustrated that these referendums often divide our communities. It should not be like this. The reality is that our state government has failed to uphold its constitutional mandate to adequately fund our schools. I am wholeheartedly committed to ensuring that the state does not shirk its responsibility anymore. With increased school funding, our districts could invest in Pre-K and career readiness education, reduce class sizes so there would be no more than 25 students in an elementary class and no more than 30 kids in a middle school/high school classroom, and hire more counselors, social workers, and school psychologists to meet the needs of all students, and free up our teachers to be better focused on academics.

Pandemic response: The state government’s initial response to the pandemic was good. The Federal government was underprepared and Minnesota stepped up. The vast majority of Republicans and Democrats came together and passed early measures for First Responders’ protection and compensation and for small businesses. Unfortunately, partisan gridlock then took over and legislators failed to pass a bonding bill that would have provided needed jobs for workers and communities, and would have enhanced infrastructure throughout the state. For additional help, our state must support both small businesses and workers. We need to act boldly and provide tax incentives to hire as businesses begin rebuilding from the effects of Covid 19. Businesses want to grow and workers want security, and both of these things can happen if we stop legislating like employers and employees are constantly at odds.There is emerging common ground when it comes to issues like paid family leave and sick leave, and there is always interest in making community businesses grow. Moreover, in the wake of Covid-19, money that has been put aside for small businesses has to get to those that need it most. We don’t want that money going to chain stores or corporations and we don’t need any more stalling in St. Paul. Finally, businesses must be prepared if Covid numbers rise. With ingenuity and preparedness (websites, online presence, retrofitting space) many businesses made it through Covid-19 and are beginning to thrive again. My goal would be to ensure that all small businesses make this same transition through small business loans and state investment in broadband infrastructure.

Balancing the budget: When it comes to balancing the budget and ensuring that Minnesota is one of the top states in the nation, I believe that the money is there in most cases, we just need to reevaluate/reassess our priorities. For example, an effective way to help balance state budgets and deal with criminal justice reform is sentencing reform. Millions of dollars can be saved through treatment as opposed to incarceration. I support bonding bills that provide jobs and invest in things like broadband internet service and solar power for our rural communities.

I support legislation that provides supplies, protections, and pay for our first responders. It’s about priorities and wanting to create the best possible lives for our residents. When looking at voting for or against a bill, we can’t let perfect get in the way of progress. If we want a thriving district, we need to examine where taxes go and, on occasion, raise taxes when there is resident desire, and private funds and grants available that can supplement costs. A great example of this is Bertram Chain of Lakes. Here, county, city and private funding and volunteers came together to make a great place that improves the wellbeing of our residents. Plus, Bertram Chain of Lakes has become a destination for people outside our district. These visitors end up spending money at many of our local businesses like Rustech Brewery or Cornerstone Cafe. From a community perspective, this is a win-win,

Distance learning: Education and local public schools are personal to me. As a teacher of 20 years, I daily get to see the most positive force in our community. I have the privilege of seeing leaders, both young and old and from all walks of life come together and build bridges for a stronger future. As the pandemic hit, we were reminded that all of our school employees from bus drivers, to paraprofessionals, to administrators, to teachers and coaches, don’t just teach our kids and brighten our day, they also provide essential services. Additionally, our schools provide mental health care, child care, and food services that enable a whole-child approach to education. The pandemic and distance learning shined a light on disparities in our communities, most notably food insecurity and access to dependable broadband internet service. Even though it was rushed, our schools rose to the challenge to meet many of these students’ needs. It was great to see, but there is much more to do. As we speak, Buffalo, Maple Lake, and Monticello schools are developing programs that will ensure success well into the future and enhance life-long learning for our kids. Programs like partial online school, flexible/contemporary scheduling, and nature school here in Monticello are innovative and nuanced, and give us an idea of best practices that should be incorporated in the post-pandemic era. As our schools rethink and expand best practices, we need the state to fully fund broadband coverage for all Minnesota schools. If this essential service is provided, I am highly confident that our schools and students will thrive.

Road/bridge funding: It’s time for our state to invest in a wide variety of infrastructure needs. From roads and bridges, to broadband internet to water treatment plants, first-class infrastructure allows our state’s economy to function and grow. Not just that, infrastructure investment enhances people’s quality of life (safe drinking water, access to the outdoors, and access to learning). A starting point would be raising our state’s gas tax by five cents. Currently we are below the national average. A five cent increase would greatly enhance our state’s ability to bolster our citizen’s lifestyles, create jobs, and boost our state’s economy.

Wild Card - These days, it is evident that there is too much emphasis on politics, not policy. In large part this is due to many of our elected officials serving multiple terms in a row. At times, the concept of “career politician” becomes an unfortunate reality. Plainly stated, those who have been in office for multiple terms tend to develop relationships with lobbyists and special interest groups, and they tend to hinder progress, thwart new ideas and, consequently, prevent voter engagement. In 2020, we need leaders who will listen to ALL residents and who will put people over politics and power. If elected, I pledge to serve no more than two terms as your representative. By making this pledge I hope that the much known American phrase “a government of the people, by the people, and for the people” becomes truer than ever in District 29B and all across the state of Minnesota.

State Senate, House seats 29 & 30

Bruce Anderson

3222 Aadland Avenue N.E. Buffalo, Minnesota 55313

Occupation: Retired 30 year Military Veteran; Present MN State Senator SD-293.

Family: Married Dottie – 1973-’06 (Deceased) – 5 Children; Married Ruth in 2009 – 2020 – with 3 Children; 12 Grandchildren and 2 Foster Children (soon to be adopted) Lived in Buffalo from 1976 to present – 44 years.

Other Civic Service: Serve on The Functional Industries, Inc. Board of Directors and also Wright County Community Action Board of Directors

Background: 70 years old. Raised on Dairy Farm; High School Graduate – 1968; Ag-Business Graduate – A.A. – 1974 – ’76; Business Administration (B.A.) – 1998-2001 U.S. Navy (Active) – 1970-’75; MN Air Natl. Grd. – 1986-2005; U.S. Air Force Reserves – 2006-2010; Retired Master Sergeant. Employed – Centra Sota Cooperative – 1976-1986; Surge, Inc. – 1986-1987; H.V.A.C. mfg. co. – 1987-1992; Member of Functional Industries Board & W.C.C.A. Board & American Legion Post 270; Conservative Republican State Representative – 1995-2012; State Senator Four (4) years

Endorsements: MN Chamber of Commerce; MN Farm Bureau; MN Gun-Owners Association; National Rifle Association; MN Citizens Concerned for Life Association; National Federation of Independent Business Association.

I am running for Senate to strengthen policies that support job-growth and government reform for today, thus creating a better tomorrow for our children and generations to come. Our citizens demand quality private sector job growth, our state and federal governments are riddled with debt and out of control spending! I want to control state spending and stop job-killing tax burdens. I support structural reform in government for cost-efficiency and long term fiscal stability. I believe we can improve Minnesota’s Business Climate by lowering taxes on job providers, incentivizing investment and expanding tax credits for research and development. MN is the 3rd Highest Corporate Income Tax-rate nationwide and when individual income taxes are considered, they are the most volatile of taxes. At the state level we should encourage local control for our schools, and provide relief for unfunded mandates. I oppose government run health care (MNSURE & A.C.A.), promote choice, completion and value in the private health care marketplace. We need to continue to evaluate how General Fund Dollars are spent on Transit projects especially as it relates to the Metropolitan Council. We also need to explore options for innovative financing solutions to fund Minnesota’s Roads and Bridges because our local community government’s are looking for not only dollars from the State but also a better means to leverage future Federal Transportation funding.

2021 Legislative Issue: The Top Priority will be Dealing with a Major 2.5 Billion DEFICIT!

Wright County Issue: Top Legislative Issue will be meeting Bonding Request Issues!

Response to COVID-19: In the early stages the State Legislature responded quickly to what the Governor’s Health Department requested in terms of meeting the Healthcare concerns. Don’t see any additional measures necessary except to get the state normal.

Balancing the Budget: Early on in May the Majority Leader asked Governor to make a request of all his Agencies to plan on a 5% reduction in their budgets for next Biennium response of MMB & other Commissioners was that would be a Request they couldn’t meet. Originally we were asking that the agencies look at a 10% reduction in their budgets but settled with a 5% request.

Roads & Bridges funding: We made a very large increase in funding in previous Budget cycles. We in this past Budget Cycle increased Fees that pertain to Transportation needs in various areas.

Distance Learning in COVID-19: I have countless Parents tell me that their children did not handle this distance learning well. One parent’s son went from being an “A” Student up to March 13th, and barely get a “C” Overall in all of his classes.

Some parents say their children were able to handle the distance learning but that was not the majority of those who wanted to see “Face to Face” Classrooms this Fall! I really believe our children should be back in a “Face to Face” Setting and I know that may not sit well with teachers but if we look back in 2009 -2010 with the H1N1 (Swine Flu) (Not Called) Pandemic we didn’t get health care officials all bent out of shape over that flu virus!

One blanket calculation that really went side ways is the health/education department using the same protocol for the whole state when in reality it was the crowded cities and nursing homes were where a large percentage of the covid cases were not found in the rural, out-state areas.

Paul Novotny

20035 Auburn St NW. Elk River MN 55330

Retired Law Enforcement. Elected to State House of Representatives Feb. 2020

Why running: I have dedicated my life to serving the public and I want to continue to serving. After the winning the special election in February, I was sworn in at the Capitol. I currently am serving on the Public Safety and Corrections sub committees. I believe my career in Law Enforcement and training in use of force has been beneficial to give working knowledge to the pressing situation in our state. I feel my beliefs and values closely reflect that of the people I have had the privilege to serve in my new role. My life long ties to the community have ensured that I am able to reach the maximum amount of residents possible.

Top priority: Public Safety, you and your loved ones have the right to feel safe and that your home and business is protected.

Top local issue: The top issue will be recovery from the COVID situation and the impact that it has and will continue to have on the economy. Currently there is a projected budget deficit to be in the $4-$5 billion range or approximately 10% of the state budget. There will have to be a serious gut check with regards to maintaining essential services and protecting the most vulnerable.

Pandemic response: The state’s initial response was measured and in the face of the unknown, reasonable. In the spring we found out that the how contagious the virus is, and how deadly it is for the medically vulnerable. At the same time, we found that in the general population COVID-19 was not nearly as deadly as first believed. There is no acceptable loss of life to COVID-19 or anything else for that matter, but like everything in life there are unavoidable losses. The governor asked for two weeks to prepare for the onslaught that was coming... that was in March. We are told this is now the new normal and at the same time that we are in an emergency, it cannot be both. The legislature is elected to be the people’s voice in how the state is run, under the current Peacetime Emergency Orders of Governor Walz, he makes all of the decisions without even consulting legislative members.

Balancing the budget: First and most importantly, raising taxes cannot be an option. Minnesota is already a high tax state and we are losing businesses to lower tax states that border us. The budget should include hiring freezes for non-essential positions, overall budget reductions, and eliminating wish list spending requests.

Distance learning: The distant learning has highlighted the need for equity in equipment and internet access. These situations can be resolved over time and with better internet with fiber optic installation. The ability to meet with teachers both by students and parents with various online programs can be used to replace the traditional conferences.

Wild Card: So many of the issues that the public sees as what government does wrong is because so many in government do not think of the state’s budget like they would a family checkbook. We as a state are in a situation similar to a two income family with one member working overtime has lost the overtime and had the hours of both cut back. A reasonable family would fix a broken window during these times, they would not take out a loan to build an indoor pool. The State of Minnesota needs to think along the same lines. The COVID response orders have closed or severely limited so many small businesses, those owners and employees have had to make cuts and eliminate cost; the State of Minnesota should do the same.

Mary Kiffmeyer

16160 201st Ave NW, Big Lake, MN 55309

Married to Ralph Kiffmeyer, 4 children and 16 grandchildren, Big Lake Township resident over 30 years

Former Registered Nurse, Organizational Consultant

Prior service: Chair of the Big Lake Community Education Advisory Counnciil, Monticello-Big Lake Hospital District Board Treasurer, member of the Big Lake Legion Auxiliary, Big Lake Spudfest Coloring Contest organizer, volunteer for many local events from peeling potatoes to calling bingo numbers.

Why running: I am running for re-election as a state senator to continue my work to preserve support for law enforcement, to support roads and bridges with no gas or other tax increase, reforming healthcare while preserving the best private market in the country, resolving the coming budget deficit through spending reforms without passing on shortfalls to taxpayers in tax increases and working for a more equitable distribution of education funds.

Top priorities: The top two issues are roads and bridges without a gas or other tax increase and a more equitable distribution of education funds.

Pandemic response: Covid is a serious illness. However, the covid response was too heavy handed and used the metro situation to saddle all of Minnesota with emergency powers mandates when the cases in rural Minnesota were very low. It does not make sense to mandate a one county solution for 87 counties. Meantime, sadly, long-term care facilities were left with too little PPE and the largest percent of deaths in the country with restrictions on families. We all agree to being safe and careful using the best of science. Washing hands, don’t sneeze or cough into the air and staying home when ill are three basics we should never forget. While more testing yielded more positives, the ICU and hospitalizations continued to decline which indicates that no further restrictions are necessary and in fact, it is time to open up Minnesota more while keeping good hygiene, vulnerable sheltered and ill people quarantined. That is good public health and good economics. We can do both.

Balancing the budget: In a time of economic hurt, raising taxes is the wrong approach and I will not vote for any tax or fee increases. Matter of fact, even in a time of economic revival, reducing taxes actually increases economic activity which increases government revenues. I will support reforming and reducing government by using technology to provide more timely and efficient services and reducing the cost of delivery. Every taxpayer has had to tighten their budgets to match incoming revenue. Government needs to do the same. In the past ten years, state government has had a large increase of funding and new employees. Time to re-evaluate and focus on zero-based budgeting to be sure taxpayers get value and are focused on what is necessary not what is just wanted. In 2012, the legislature balanced a similar budget deficit without raising taxes or fees and without harming the neediest amongst us. We have a proven track record of that success.

Distance learning: The change to distance learning was not working for every student. It is too early for best practices to become recommended as we are not done with this change yet. One practice is emerging, which is instead of students moving to classrooms, teachers are moving to student groups. Still need more time to evaluate what should be a best practice. In the meantime, I doubt it will be a best practice that students wear masks while sitting at their desks when adults can sit at a restaurant table with no masks. There needs to be a focus on what really works, not on what is just a mandate.

Road/bridge funding: I do not support raising gas taxes or other fees. As we see in our driving all over the state, there is a great amount of construction funded already under current law. Moving to using a portion of the auto-related sales tax in addition to gas taxes for roads and bridges has proven very helpful. 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.

Wild card: Minnesota’s election laws are in place for all Minnesotans to safely and securely cast their ballot in-person whether by absentee ballot starting Sept. 18 at their county and some cities OR in-person at their polling pace on Nov. 3. If you really need to vote an absentee ballot entirely through the mail, do not wait. Allow at least two weeks for your ballot to process through the USPS system and follow instructions carefully. Want to know who is on MyBallot or where your polling place is or need more information?

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