Earlier this month, Patch invited readers to pose questions to District 46 candidates. We sent your questions to the candidates, along with some of our own, and will be posting their answers to help you know how they’d tackle the challenges ahead and where they stand on key issues.
First up is DFL Sen. Ron Latz. An interview is also available from David Arvidson, the GOP challenger for House District 46B. Interviews with the other candidates will follow in the coming days.
What blend of taxes and cuts will you support?
I support a balanced approach to restructuring our budget so that it does not perennially face a gap between revenues and expenses. We have swiped one-time funds and borrowed from our schools and tobacco revenues without addressing the long-term structural imbalance. I support new revenues in the form of high income income-tax surcharges, collecting the sales tax due on sales conducted over the Internet and broadening the sales tax base, and closing loopholes for foreign operating corporations and overseas corporate income. I would lower the corporate income tax and in the long run schedule a reduction in the sales tax rate. I also recognize that we will have to restrain or cut spending even more than we have in order for this to work. The specific blend of cuts and revenues will have to be determined when we receive updated budget information in the Spring of 2013.
What are your plans and/or past actions to support small businesses and their owners and workers?
I have carried and passed legislation to relax restrictions on local business products allowed in the heavily regulated area of liquor sales. I carried the This Small Shop legislation to give tax credits to businesses that reinvest in their older properties to renovate and renew their facilities. I support reducing the corporate income tax. And I support reducing the local property tax (a large cost for businesses) by stopping the shift from the state budget to local budgets in many areas including schools and county social services.
How will you approach public school funding? What do you consider adequate funding for our schools?
It’s time to stop borrowing from our local public schools to pay for other state expenditures. We should repay the $2.4 billion school shift over the next 6 years or so, and increase the formula payments by at least the rate of inflation. We can do this by taking the approach toward state budgeting that I explained in the first question above.
How can you change the conversation in St. Paul to work toward compromise? Are you open to compromise with members of the opposition party? What does compromise look like to you?
I have a long record of passing bipartisan legislation with both Republican and DFL majorities in the legislature, signed by GOP and DFL governors: the statewide smoking ban extension to restaurants and bars; the 35W bridge collapse compensation fund; and others. I have voted out of step with my political party on some issues as well, including gambling issues like Racino. Compromise means a willingness to work with others, find common ground where it exists, not demonize the other legislators, and adjust legislation to gather enough support to actually pass it rather than just make some political points. My record shows that I know how to do this.
Do you support or oppose the marriage amendment and why?
Oppose. Marriage is first and foremost about love and commitment. Second, society’s views on the issue are shifting. They may or may not ultimately support same-sex marriage, but embedding the prohibition in the constitution would freeze out the ability to adjust the law through our elected legislative representatives if and when a community consensus develops to change the statute. So, whether we agree or not that same-sex marriage is appropriate, we could all agree that state statute, not the constitution, is the better place to deal with this.
Do you support or oppose the voter ID amendment and why?
Oppose. Freezing a narrow definition of voter integrity measures (government-issued photo identification) in the constitution will make it impossible for the legislature to adapt the law to changing technology (such as electronic voter verification, i.e., Internet-based voter data with pictures). Moreover, the proposed amendment would make it harder for many honest voters to vote, groups that don’t have or would have trouble getting current identification, such as students, seniors, and overseas military. The fact is that we don’t have a voter impersonation problem in Minnesota. The cost of implementing this radical change in one of the best election systems in the country to address a non-existent problem is an unwise expenditure. We should reject the amendment and send the issue back to the legislature for a bipartisan election reform measure.
What role should state government have in caring for the less fortunate?
We have a communal moral obligation to care for those who cannot care for themselves, such as the mentally ill and disabled. We should do all we can to provide the tools for success to those with less opportunity so they can achieve self-sustenance on their own. We cannot condemn multiple generations of children in bad situations through no fault of their own to a life of neglect and poverty. Our social service safety net must be robust along with expectations from recipients that they will do all they can to get off the social support system.
What relationship should state government have with cities, counties and other local government entities?
Local governments are often the best place to deliver services to residents. The state should set standards in areas that affect the broader population, and should utilize local governments to deliver important services where possible. Local governments should also have a certain amount of flexibility to meet their own communities’ needs and expectations, including revenue sources. As a former city council member, I understand this dynamic and respect the ability of local officials to make good decisions.
How well does the Southwest Light Rail Transit project fit the needs of the region?
As the author of funding for SWLRT for the last ten years in the legislature, I have strongly support the continued build-out of a world class transportation infrastructure. Businesses recruiting employees from across the country know that a rail transit system is an important consideration. SWLRT will support 60,000 jobs along its corridor, making commuting easier for employees. This is why the Twin West Chamber of Commerce supports it.
What financial incentives do you favor to encourage the establishment of high tech business in your district?
The careful use of tax increment financing by our local governments is one-way business growth and location is encouraged. I have supported the angel investor tax credit to encourage investment in start-ups, many of which are high tech. And, I have promoted the nanotechnology building at the University of Minnesota, which will help our state to lead research that will spawn such businesses. We ought to reduce the corporate income tax to further facilitate business growth. Perhaps most importantly, we need to invest our resources in education—early childhood, K-12, and higher education—to train the highly skilled workforce needed by high tech businesses to compete on a global scale.