Senate District 56, which includes portions of Burnsville and Lakeville and all of Savage, features a race between Republican Sen. Dan Hall and the DFL’s endorsed candidate Lindsey Port.

Following are their responses to the newspaper’s questionnaire.

Dan Hall, incumbent

 Age: 68

 Family: Spouse: Valerie; eight children: Aaron, Jesse, Annie, Ellie, Joy, Tom, Glory, Jonny; 14 grandchildren

Senate District 56 candidate questionnaire

Dan Hall

Occupation: Retired teacher, principal, Christian minister, Burnsville police chaplain, Minnesota senator (10 years)

Education: Minneapolis Roosevelt High School and Augsburg University

Endorsements: Minnesota Police and Peace Officers Association, Minnesota Chamber of Commerce, Housing First Minnesota, Minnesota Citizens Concerned for Life (MCCL), Minnesota Retailers, National Federation of Independent Businesses, Local 49 Operating Engineers Union, Minnesotans For Affordable Health Insurance

Previous elected, appointed or volunteer positions: Senator (10 years), YMCA director, school principal, schoolteacher, nonprofit CEO, and law firm vice president

1) The state is projected to have at least a $2.4 billion budget deficit in the next session, as the Legislature will be tasked with adopting a two-year budget in 2021. What would be your approach to balancing the budget in terms of reducing spending and/or raising taxes and fees? Be as specific as possible.

Minnesota faces a multibillion-dollar budget deficit next year. The last thing Minnesotans need during an economic crunch is to have their taxes raised. I am committed to helping solve our state’s budget deficit without raising taxes while still prioritizing our most vulnerable. There are many items in the budget that are “wants” and not “needs.” For example, the state spent $7.2 million to build a rest stop with imported tropical wood, or nearly $30 million in Medicaid overpayments due to a software failure. We need to cut the unnecessary spending in these areas so that we can protect things like schools, nursing homes, and health care.

2) What is the best way that state government can support the economy as it emerges from COVID-19 restrictions on businesses and gatherings and continue to protect public health and reduce the spread of COVID-19?

The safety of Minnesotans should be the top priority of state government. I think everyone, both Republicans and Democrats, in the Legislature agrees with this. We just often have differing ideas on how to achieve that safety. I think that we need to trust Minnesotans. No business owner wants their customers or employees to get sick. It is time to trust Minnesotans to do the right thing and allow them to make choices that they think will best keep themselves and their families healthy and safe. The best thing we could do to help our state’s economy is allowing greater flexibility to our citizens by easing some of the restrictions that are in place.

3) Affordable health care remains a concern to many Minnesotans. Do you support expansion of government-run health insurance plans? If not, what options do you support to stabilize health insurance premiums?

Contrary to the lies that have been put out there by expensive attack mailers, I always have and always will support coverage for pre-existing conditions. Minnesota has covered pre-existing conditions since 1976, and will continue to do so. We have come a long way since the MNsure mess and I am proud to have voted for legislation (reinsurance) that has helped stabilize health care premiums. I have also helped pass legislation that will lower the cost of insulin, provide greater transparency in health care pricing, and provided over $500 million to fight COVID-19.

4) Mandated paid family and medical leave for all Minnesota employers was debated in 2020. It passed the House but failed in the Senate. Do you support such a mandate? Why or why not?

Families are the cornerstone of our society and we need to support them. I think we must work together and bring all stakeholders to the table to get any bill passed. We must include advocates, businesses, and regular Minnesotans to do this. Many Minnesotans already have more generous paid family leave policies through their employers than what the state could provide. I fear that if we rush paid family leave legislation through without working wi all stakeholders, many Minnesota families could find themselves with a larger tax bill with fewer benefits.

5) Do you agree or disagree that the governor’s executive powers and the bonding bill were linked in negotiations? Why or why not? Do you believe the emergency powers act should be changed to alter the governor’s peacetime emergency powers? If so, how?

Since the start of this pandemic, Gov. Walz has issued over 88 executive orders. I’ve supported many of them, especially early on, while others I disagree with. The Senate, and I, have never taken the position that those powers need to end before we come to the table on a bonding bill. In fact, we passed a bonding bill earlier this summer. I would like to see the governor work with the Legislature to deal with this crisis. We live in a democracy, and the elected representatives of the people should have a seat at the table.

Lindsey Port

 Age: 38

Senate District 56 candidate questionnaire

Lindsey Port

 Family: Husband Steve Port, two young daughters

 Occupation: Executive director, Blueprint Campaigns (nonprofit)

 Education: University of Minnesota-Twin Cities

 Endorsements: President Barack Obama; Sen. Amy Klobuchar; Sen. Tina Smith; Gov. Tim Walz; Congresswoman Angie Craig; Reps. Alice Mann and Hunter Cantrell; Sen. Matt Little; DFL; Minnesota DFL Senior, Young, Environmental, Stonewall, and Latino Caucuses; College Democrats of Minnesota; Education Minnesota; Minnesota Nurses Association; MAPE; Minnesota AFL-CIO; Minnesota SEIU; AFSCME Council 5; SMART; UFCW 1189; Women Winning; Emily’s List; Planned Parenthood; NARAL; Moms Demand Action; Protect Minnesota Orange Star Candidate; Giffords; Sierra Club; MN 350 Action; Boundary Waters Action Fund; Conservation Minnesota; TakeAction Minnesota; Outfront Minnesota Action; former Rep. Will Morgan; SD56 legislative candidates Kaela Berg and Jess Hanson.

Previous elected, appointed or volunteer positions: I’ve been active in our district as a volunteer since 2012 through my work to defeat the anti-marriage equality amendment. I was a leader on Rep. Will Morgan’s 2014 campaign. I ran for the House of Representatives in 2016, building critical political infrastructure and widening the scope of people engaged in electoral work through this process. After recruiting Reps.  Alice Mann and Hunter Cantrell, I helped them win their races. These experiences have kept me close to the people in our district and will help me be their voice in the Minnesota Senate.

1) The state is projected to have at least a $2.4 billion budget deficit in the next session, as the Legislature will be tasked with adopting a two-year budget in 2021. What would be your approach to balancing the budget in terms of reducing spending and/or raising taxes and fees? Be as specific as possible.

Our budget is critical for keeping Minnesotans prosperous, safe and healthy. It’s how we ensure our kids have the best education, our roads are maintained and Minnesota continues to be a national leader in innovation. The next Legislature will need to address the pandemic while ensuring that our schools and businesses have the resources they need to survive. Solving this deficit will require judicious management of taxpayer dollars and hard decisions if we are to maintain critical services. To meet these needs, the Legislature must consider new revenue. I would look to the legalization and taxation of recreational marijuana as a revenue stream. I also support a bonding bill that invests in critical infrastructure and will keep Minnesotans working. Solving the deficit will be difficult but I look forward to taking on this task and fighting to keep Minnesota on the right track.

2) What is the best way that state government can support the economy as it emerges from COVID-19 restrictions on businesses and gatherings and continue to protect public health and reduce the spread of COVID-19?

Slowing the transmission of COVID-19 is the key to restoring the economy. As the executive director of an organization and a mother of two girls, I empathize with employers who are unsure how to protect their employees and parents who struggle to work while their child is distance learning. In addition to promoting social distancing, mask wearing, and increased testing, data on COVID-19 in our state should be closely monitored, especially on a regional level. This will ensure that as scientifically sound benchmarks are reached, restrictions can be gradually lifted. We should boost funding for programs that support small businesses and Minnesotans in need. We should continue to work with the Mayo Clinic and the University of Minnesota on research toward better testing and vaccines. Lastly, we need to make sure that every Minnesotan who wants or needs a test or care, is able to access them.

3) Affordable health care remains a concern to many Minnesotans. Do you support expansion of government-run health insurance plans? If not, what options do you support to stabilize health insurance premiums?

Health care is a basic human right. For health care to be effective, it must be affordable and accessible through a comprehensive set of services and a network of providers available in all areas of the state. The Legislature must immediately establish a MinnesotaCare Buy-In program, allowing all Minnesotans and small businesses to buy into a program that has provided high-quality, low-cost insurance to thousands of working Minnesotans for more than 25 years. This measure would provide access to health care for thousands more Minnesotans and allow us to build a sustainable model to transition to a MinnesotaCare for All health care system in which every Minnesotan has access to health care regardless of zip code and income level.

4) Mandated paid family and medical leave for all Minnesota employers was debated in 2020. It passed the House but failed in the Senate. Do you support such a mandate? Why or why not?

I support this program because too many Minnesotans are forced to choose between a paycheck and caring for a newborn or a family member. The pandemic has highlighted the need for this benefit, as many families are forced to care for their children or sick family members. A paid family leave program provides economic security for employees during major life events and reduces turnover for employers. As a former small-business owner and current executive director, I know how beneficial this program would be to employers who cannot afford to offer this benefit on their own.

5) Do you agree or disagree that the governor’s executive powers and the bonding bill were linked in negotiations? Why or why not? Do you believe the emergency powers act should be changed to alter the governor’s peacetime emergency powers? If so, how?

As Minnesotans, small businesses and communities struggle, the focus should be on strengthening the state and economy. It’s why I do not believe that the governor’s executive powers should have been linked with the bonding bill. Holding up jobs and work on needed infrastructure to take away powers that every other state and federal government have is politics at its worst. The peacetime emergency powers are there to protect Minnesotans in times of crisis, giving the governor flexibility to act swiftly in a public health emergency. Currently, these powers have enough oversight to ensure that the governor cannot exploit them.

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