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Owatonna People's Press Q & A


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1. Minnesota is in the midst of budget shortfalls, with projections of deficits of more than $5 billion. How should the shortfall be resolved? Spending cuts only? Tax increases only? A combination? If you support spending cuts, where would you cut? (Be specific) If you support tax increases, what taxes would you increase? (Be specific) If you support a combination, what would you cut and what taxes would you increase? (Be specific)

I believe, as do a majority of citizens in Senate District 26, that we must first get our house in order before we can even speak about raising taxes. We must first stop the out of control spending that has taken place over the last 20 years by this state. Our budget has increased an average of 8% each year. Private sector employees have seen their take-home pay reduced while government spending has been kept on auto-pilot increase. Health and Human Services is projected to increase 32% over the next biennium from $9 billion to $12 billion dollars. Why? Even though our revenue is expected to grow $2.3 billion by 2013, spending is also projected to grow by $8 billion to a total of $38.7 billion. Why? We have not taken a look at what is draining our dollars and if the taxpayers are getting what they deserve. We need to look at combining agencies, a more streamline approach. We need to offer furloughs to state employees. This state needs to reign in its spending and not spend more than it has collected.

2. Continuing budget shortfalls have prompted many calls for redesigning government. Identify three specific ways that state government could become more efficient in its delivery of programs and services.

1. Mandate relief. 2. Consolidation of Agencies. 3. A third way that government can become more efficient might be encouraging school districts and local municipalities to explore ways how they can share services across boundaries. For more on successful government streamlining, I would invite you to check out the way the State of Texas has accomplished this at:

3. What is your opinion of Local Government Aid? Should the program be eliminated? Should the state try to balance its books by cutting some of the funds given to local governments? What should local governmental bodies and your constituents expect out of you in regards to LGA if you go to St. Paul?

I have been very clear, as I was when I ran and won the special election in January of this year, LGA has been used like a credit card and it needs to change. Yes, there is a purpose for LGA, but not as a budget- builder. Cities must adjust their budgets to reflect the tax base they have. That tax base must take care of the needs of the community, such as police, fire, electricity, water and infrastructure. By each city building its budget on its own tax base, they become better stewards of the citizens' dollars and will control its spending. LGA needs to be used only for projects that directly affect basic needs. I will work to change the formula for LGA that will protect outstate communities if it is to continue into the future.

4. How should Minnesota deal with pressing transportation needs? Specifically, what will YOU do to help secure the funds needed to complete the Highway 14 expansion project? What revenue sources would you support?

I believe we have the revenue already to complete Highway 14. We need to prioritize the transportation dollars we recieve and the way you can do that is to get the right people in control. As a business person each day, we must prioritize what is best for our business. That needs to be done in St. Paul. Do we really need a light rail system at this time when there are so many undone projects? We are already subsidizing the current North Star to the tune of $1 million dollars a month. I sit on the Senate Transportation Committee and have worked hard to move toward prioritization. I will continue to do so next January.

5. Education reform was debated vigorously in the Capitol after Minnesota failed to receive funding in the Race to the Top federal program. What should be done to reform education in Minnesota? Be specific. What measures do you support to narrow the achievement gap among the advantaged and disadvantaged Minnesota students? Be specific. Do you support alternative teacher licensure.

In an effort to reform education in Minnesota we must evaluate successful approaches used locally or in other states. We need to have our teachers be agents of change rather than defenders of the status quo. Administrators, teachers, parents and students should share responsibility for performance and focus more on accountability and results in terms of what does and does not work. And we need to have parents take more active roles in their child's education. I know this is a hard one with most parents working, but I believe it will help. Often times, achievement gaps are created when traditional approaches are not working for all students. Thus, school districts and parents must feel empowered to seek other educational outlets for their children. The legislature should continually seek ways to encourage innovation and competition so that every child receives the first-rate education that Minnesota is capable of providing. Each student is guaranteed an education and we must fulfill our responsibility to provide it.

Yes, I do support alternative teacher licensure.

6. What should the state government be doing to encourage business growth and expansion in the state of Minnesota? Be specific.

We have started to make some improvements with the new Angel investor tax credit which was passed into law this past session. We can do much more, like adopting policies that enable the state to compete in a global economy. We must be focused on solving problems that get in the way of job creation, like reversing unnecessary mandates and lengthy permitting processes. Since job growth comes mainly from small businesses, we should be focusing on growing small business rather than taxing them out of the state. Business and investment taxes should be lowered. Let's give business a chance to hire more of the unemployed with competitive wages. And, of course, we must see to continually improve our education.

7. Should tax dollars be part of the financing package for a new Vikings stadium? If so, how should that money be raised? Be specific.

The Vikings stadium can be built by using the "preferred seating purchase' idea that Senator Olseen proposed in the past session. Also, Racino has shown that it can add to the building of a Vikings stadium.

8. What have you done and will you do to overcome the partisan gridlock that often occurs in St. Paul? Be specific not only about what you have done, but also about what you will do in the future.

With two DFL representatives serving the people of Senate District 26 alongside me, it is often in the best interest of my constituents for me to cross the aisle and work together with my counterparts in the Minnesota House of Representatives. There is no excuse for partisan games when the real purpose of our jobs is to serve the people that sent us here. Knowledge is power and I believe communication can overcome gridlock. One must realize that ever since the Senate began using party designations in campaigns (1972), the DFL has consistently held a legislative majority (38 years). When there is that kind of control, it is harder to debate and work together. I will continually strive to bridge the gap of partisan gridlock as we approach the next legislative session.

9. Why are you running for office? What are your personal priorities?

To be part of the solution to reign in the out of control spending with common sense leadership that our citizens want and deserve. We need to put money back into the pocket of our citizens and get them back to work at competitive wages. Jobs, we need jobs and we need them now. We need leadership that that works for all the citizens of this great State.

10. Briefly summarize your personal background and qualifications for the Legislature.

I have a background that includes public sector employee as a past police officer and sheriff's deputy. I am a business owner that employs people and contributes to their livelihood. My family and I currently own a Godfather's Pizza Franchise and a Marketing & Motivation company. I've owned a radio station(KGHR/KQAQ in Austin, MN) and managed many radio stations successfully. I've been in numerous winning leadership roles and am a proven team builder. I have been married for 38 years to my beautiful wife, Kathy, with whom I have had 2 children, with 4 grandchildren and one on the way. I understand the importance of Education, Job growth and living within our means. Find out more at

Committees I serve on in the State Senate

Business, Industry and Jobs
Capital Investment
Finance - Transportation Budget and Policy Division
State and Local Government Operations and Oversight

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