Over the past week, I got the chance to sit down with other House and Senate candidates from districts 20 and 58 at a few different forums hosted by the League of Women Voters, Northfield Chamber of Commerce, and KCHK Radio. We discussed a wide variety of issues including transportation, education, small businesses, the MN farmers. These conversations highlight what we have accomplished in St. Paul and the challenges that our community will face in the upcoming years.
At the candidate forum hosted by the League of Women Voters last week, I was proud to discuss the strides that we have made in MN education during the last legislative session. Most specifically, the investment in early childhood education and all day kindergarten will help MN schools address the achievement gap–in turn helping students across the state graduate high school prepared to enter college or the workforce.
The conversation at the Northfield Chamber of Commerce candidate forum on Tuesday, October 11th focused on MN’s economy and small businesses. Last session, I supported several pieces of legislation that addressed the workforce shortages in MN. The “Teacher Shortage Act” works to ensure that we keep the best and brightest teachers in our classrooms across the state through more flexible licensing processes, grants that help bring student teachers to shortage areas, and a statewide teacher job board to connect teachers with open positions and districts. In addition to this, I focused on making sure our students have exposure to career options before making decisions after graduation. Through career fairs, bringing in business representatives to schools, and connecting students with technical colleges as well as four-year colleges, I believe that we can address workforce development and ensure that our state workforce has the necessary skills to continue building our economy.
Last Wednesday, I talked with representatives from the Belle Plaine FFA and we discussed the issues facing farmers in Greater MN. During my time in office, I am proud to have supported bipartisan initiatives including Forever Green–which provided $1 million worth of grants to the Board of Regents at the University of Minnesota to help researchers develop and implement ways for farmers to use their land more sustainably and effectively while increasing yields–and “Buy the Farm” legislation that protected local farmers from the Capx2020 project.
You can listen to the full debate here: http://www.kchkradio.net/2016/10/13/podcast-kchk-legislative-district-20-ag-debate
I always look forward to these discussions about the issues facing our community. Strong solutions are built off of these open-minded conversations. When we work together, we can continue moving MN in the right direction.
We kicked off the first October door knock with Governor Mark Dayton last Saturday morning. Over 30 students and community members joined to take part in door knocking, phone banking and on-site support.
I had the pleasure of speaking with several young representatives of the DFL party that are volunteering this election cycle — as well as many long-time supporters and new members of the community.
Many supporters brought their children along, which is always a strong reminder of why the work we do in St. Paul is so important. Being a father of three, I want to make sure my children, as well as the children of this community, receive the best opportunities to get ahead in life.
It was also an honor to have Governor Dayton and Representative David Bly engaged with the community — sharing their experiences and beliefs that we can rise above to make positive changes for future generations.
Overall, this was a great way to begin the last leg of the campaign season. We have several other community events to get involved in — more info can be found on the events calendar. Feel free to send me a note as well.
I’m looking forward to earning your vote this election,
With the end of the 2016 legislative session only a few weeks away, the session is heating up. Supplemental budget proposals will be finalized soon, bills are leaving committees to be heard on the floor, and the process of negotiating an end to the session has begun in earnest.
While Republican and Democratic Party leaders can and will get into partisan battles during these negotiations, members of the Minnesota Senate’s Purple Caucus have been working hard to hammer out points of unity. As a representative of a very politically diverse district, I am proud to be a part of that work as a member of the caucus. The Purple Caucus includes both parties, with Senators Jeremy Miller (R-Winona) and Roger Reinert (DFL-Duluth) acting as co-chairs.
When I teach my students about American politics, I tell them that parties have important roles to play in our political system, but it’s important to keep in mind the larger goals of public service. A bipartisan caucus can be a great opportunity for members of opposing political parties to engage on issues they all care about.
Members of the Purple Caucus do just that, and in this case, our unifying factor is our pride in our state. (Senator Reinert may have named the caucus after joint military exercises involving blended “Purple Units,” but as a Vikings fan, I like to think it extends to our NFL team as well.) The Purple Caucus meets regularly to talk about positions we have in common, and have outlined four principles that we will speak up for as the session draws to a close.
First, Minnesotans expect the 2016 legislature to pass a Transportation Finance Bill, a Tax Bill, and a Bonding Bill. The transportation and tax bills are still pending from last year, when the session ended before either bill was passed. I believe that sustainable transportation funding is critical to our state’s economic development, and will save taxpayers money in the long run. A tax bill with carefully targeted middle-class and property tax relief will give some money back to Minnesotans, without busting the budget in future years.
The Purple Caucus also supports the passage of both a Bonding Bill and a Transportation Finance Bill, and that roads, bridges, and transit should not be funded through borrowing in the Bonding Bill. Bonding is an important tool that the state uses to upgrade, repair, or build new state infrastructure, and leaning on this borrowing to fund roads and bridges would crowd out needed investments in other areas. I am concerned that overly-politicizing the state’s bonding by including individual transportation projects would jeopardize their eventual completion and, furthermore, be bad for our long-term fiscal health.
Third, and perhaps most importantly, the Purple Caucus has called for increased transparency in the legislative process. The end of last year’s legislative session was disappointing to everyone, with closed-door meetings and negotiations often locking out not only the public, but even elected officials not part of their party leadership. We believe that all legislators and the public should be included in the final decision-making process.
The Purple Caucus also encourages like-minded members of the Minnesota House to join our efforts, prioritizing our common ground as we finish this session. We may not always be successful, and there are still major differences between our parties, but acknowledging and fighting for our shared goals will make our state a better place for everyone. The Purple Caucus adheres to the following principles, as developed by the Speak Your Peace Civility Project: pay attention; be inclusive; not gossip; show respect; be agreeable; apologize; give constructive criticism; and take responsibility.
As rural legislators, we recognize the great need for a robust transportation funding package for our communities. Roads and bridges are critical to the success of our economy, and the increasing demand is putting pressure on our aging network. We also know that projects like completing Highway 14 and expansion of Highway 19 will take years to finish – and shouldn’t be done a mile at a time.
It is well reported that Minnesota’s transportation needs have reached a critical point. Paying for the needed investment our transportation network needs will require significant resources. According to the Minnesota Department of Transportation, our shortfall over the next 20 years will reach nearly $16.3 billion. To succeed as a state, we must find a way to fill this gap in a sustainable and reliable way.
Thankfully, our colleagues in the Senate and the House recognize the great need for this investment. We have all heard from our constituents just how important a transportation bill is to the success of our townships, our towns and cities, our counties, and in every corner of Minnesota.
Unfortunately, that’s where our similarities seem to end. We are willing to look at all options on the table. However, we are unwilling to compromise on a plan for our transportation network that is worse for rural communities. By relying on local tax increases, one-time spending, and borrowing, the Republican plan does not provide the same level of support for those communities—our communities—that need it most.
Because our rural communities don’t have the same tax base as the suburbs and metro, rural Minnesota would get less with local tax increases that the House GOP relies upon. They do not provide any new funding for larger city local roads, and they do not provide enough investment for smaller cities. Without this new funding, our areas will have to rely on local sources of revenue like a wheelage or county sales tax – which would fall far short of what’s needed.
For example, the Republican plan gives minimal funding to small cities, enough to fill a few potholes at best. To raise more revenue, Rice or Waseca County could adopt a sales tax. However, the new revenue raised by the tax base in these counties cannot support the demands of their aging systems. Local sources of revenue are simply not enough to replace a stable statewide funding source.
Instead of providing consistent and dedicated funding for all parts of our state, the House would also rely on a significant amount of bonding. Transportation projects are often 5, 10, and 15-year projects that require long-term, dedicated funding. Planning projects cannot rely on the action of future legislatures. At best, we set a risky precedent of a bonding bill picking winners and losers for specific road projects; at worst, funding dries up for critical work.
In the DFL-led Senate, we have put forth a comprehensive plan that provides stable and dedicated funding for the entire state’s transportation network. This significant new influx of revenue will be spread across all 87 counties and hundreds of our towns and cities, ensuring our communities can get more funding to support local projects on Main Street.
A modest increase in the state’s gas tax can provide stable and significant new revenue for all of Minnesota’s counties, and for those towns and cities that need it most. The gas tax is constitutionally dedicated to paying for roads and bridges, and is the guarantee we need for long-term priorities.
The Senate transportation bill delivers a promise for our state’s transportation network – stable and consistent funding, spread to every community that needs it, with increased investments for rural communities that cannot support new road projects on their own.
Almost two dozen states, many with Republican governors and legislatures, have passed transportation bills through a combination of increasing their gas tax, general fund money, and other means. Let’s pass a responsible transportation bill that provides the stable and consistent funding our communities need.