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Election 2002: District 31B MN Representative


Fri, Oct 25th, 2002
Posted in Features

Editors note: Greg Davids (Republican) and Al Hein (DFL) are running for a newly aligned District 31B Minnesota House of Representative seat.

The Journal asked the two candidates to respond to an Election Questionnaire. Here are their responses in their own words.

Journal: Inform the readers as to your qualifications and motivation for running for state office.

Hein: Ive been a resident of Fillmore County since 1960. the first school I attended was the Newburg School; there were four children in my class. I graduated from Mabel High School in 1966, attended Winona State with a political science/business major and a psychology minor until 1969 when the U.S. Army sponsored a summer vacation for me to Ft. Leonardwood, MO. Im a past director of the Minnesota Corn Growers Association, initial organizer and now a director of the Pro Corn Ethanol Plant in Preston, director and past treasurer of the Southeast Minnesota Ethanol Co-op, a director of Fillmore County Farm Bureau, and member of Minnesota Farmers Union, Mabel American Legion, Mabel Lions, Hesper Mabel Area Historical Society, and the Garness Lutheran Church. In 1999 I was appointed to the Rural Crisis Commission by Tracy Beckman, former state Farm Service Agency director.

Im running because our district has been constantly shortchanged in economic opportunity and the amount of state money allocated back to our district. After 12 years, its time to change direction.

Davids: Former Preston City Council member; former three term mayor, city of Preston; six terms elected to Minnesota House of Representatives; four years Chairman, House Commerce, Jobs and Economic Development Committee.

My motivation for serving in public office has been and always will be to serve others. I hope to be able to continue to serve the people of District 31B as a problem solver and advocate for rural Minnesota issues.

Journal: Given an estimated $3 billion revenue shortfall, how do you propose the state balances its budget? Consider what major cuts you would propose; whether you would propose raising taxes; and whether there are budget line items you would recommend protecting. Explain.

Davids: The legislature must look at funding for all state programs. As in the past, I will fight hard to protect our rural schools, nursing homes and local government aids to cities, counties and townships. There may be a combination of spending cuts and tax increases to balance the budget. I have worked through budget deficits in 1991 and 2001 and 2002.

Hein: Its a perfect time to reconsider all programs on the state level, safeguarding education and healthcare. Its time to trim the fat. The light rail system, for instance, used up over $330 million already. If the metro area needs specific programs, let them consider raising their own sales tax through referendum (possibly 1%). Theyll use it - they pay for it.

Journal: With the shortfall in mind, what advice do you have for local units of government and school districts that rely on state funding?

Hein: Unfortunately, state government has shortchanged both local government and school districts. My advice is that the state cannot be relied upon. However, its critical in the next session that we return to St. Paul and apply pressure to focus on our local government and our school district needs in southeast Minnesota. We know lobbying is the oil that drives the machinery of government. Perhaps in some subtle ways, more lobbying pressure should be applied. The state representative should help. I would also propose simplifying the formula from 24 points to possibly 4 whereby state money is allocated to school districts. Were being shortchanged by up to $3500 per student. The present complicated formula I believe was instituted by powerful committee chairmen representing metro areas, knowing full well they were bringing financial pork back to their districts.

Davids: The legislature must be up front and honest, in that if there are any cuts to local units of government and school districts, that it is an increased burden to those units of government and that local property taxes will most likely be increased to make up those deficits. A cut from the state will result in a tax increase at the local level.

Journal: Outstate representation in the House and Senate has been further diminished with redistricting, what strategies do you intend to employ to ensure that rural issues are addressed in St. Paul?

Davids: This is a serious problem for rural Minnesota. We have lost five House seats to the suburbs.

We need to keep rural legislators with seniority and committee chairs. For four years I have been chairman of the Commerce Committee and my 12 years seniority will be crucial to make sure that rural interests are heard and acted upon.

Hein: To make sure the needs of greater Minnesota are met, I propose all of the rural lobby groups (Farm Bureau, Farm Alliance, Farmers Union, etc.) combine their efforts in a new rural cooperation umbrella organization and coordinate activities in St. Paul to bring more pressure to bear. I will propose bonding for money to fund regional development commissions so that local units can join. We would set up tax free enterprise zones. More opportunity for rural Minnesota - less pressure in metro areas for transportation and services.

Journal: What is the biggest single issue facing the state of Minnesota and how do you propose dealing with it?

Hein: Biggest issue - the budget shortfall. This is the work of the last legislative session. Giving tax breaks where they werent needed contributed to our huge shortfall now. Tax breaks were targeted toward the affluent suburbs (the work of both powerful Republicans and Democrats) and a small amount of relief to rural Minnesota in the form of tax breaks on ag land. The transportation levy takeover was also part of this. All of this tax reform came with a caveat. The metro area legislators wouldnt support it unless they got their own. even larger, tax breaks, knowing full well when the chickens came home to roost, all of Minnesota would pay the bill. The net result, our disproportional treatment in taxation was never changed.

Davids: I believe the most important issue for this state is rural economic development and job creation. With a healthy economy and good jobs, so many of our problems would take care of themselves. A strong Ag sector helps our rural cities and small business. Strong farms and rural cities and small businesses make for strong schools and strong communities. If re-elected I will work diligently on the issues of rural economic development and job creation.

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