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Q&A With the Legislative Candidates: Steve Simon

The DFL incumbent for House District 46B answers your questions on key issues.

In October, 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.

Today Steve Simon, the DFL incumbent for House District 46B, answers your questions. We previously talked to DFL Sen. Ron Latz and David Arvidson, the Republican challenger in House District 46B.

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What blend of taxes and cuts will you support?

The question correctly implies that we do need a balanced approach to any possible budget shortfall; a sensible blend of spending cuts and revenue increases. That's what an overwhelming majority of people want to see. I would support shrinking or eliminating various tax loopholes. I also believe that we have to control the rate of growth in health care spending before it overwhelms the state budget,

What are your plans and/or past actions to support small businesses and their owners and workers?

Businesses need customers. That sounds simple, but the current economy is a crisis in demand, not supply. Part of creating more customers is emphasizing the health of our middle class. As to specific help for businesses, government has a role to play. Interest-free loans, training partnerships with workers, regulatory relief, and tax simplification are all options that can work. I've helped local businesses in our area with some of those measures. I also believe that businesses and their workers benefit from en efficient transportation system. That means a combination of roads, buses, and rail. To that end, I've been a champion expanding Highway 100 and building the Southwest Corridor light rail line.

How will you approach public school funding? What do you consider adequate funding for our schools?

Even in a tough economy, we have to protect our schools from misguided cuts. To me, that means tackling the reckless state borrowing from our schools (which I voted against) that cost the St. Louis Park District $10 million and the Hopkins School District $18 million. While more money does not always guarantee better results, resources do impact issues like class sizes, course offerings, and the availability of technology. We should fund our schools at a level that achieves excellence, while requiring accountability.

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?

Compromise is essential to the legislative process. Unfortunately, some see it as a dirty word or a sign of weakness. The unwillingness to find common ground las led to unnecessary state shutdowns. Disagreement is healthy, but inflexibility leads to gridlock. People understand respectful disagreements about big ideas, but they are frustrated by petty bickering. I pride myself on working hard and often with people who may disagree with me. I co-chair the bipartisan group that runs the orientation effort for new members of the Minnesota House. As a Democrat, I've passed legislation through the GOP legislature, and with the signature of a GOP governor. That's because I'm not afraid to have strong working relationships with people in both political parties.

Do you support or oppose the marriage amendment and why?

I strongly oppose the anti-marriage amendment. I believe that future generations will look back in amazement and even in shame that we once debated whether government (as opposed to religious institutions) should prevent two loving, committed, responsible people from joining one of our most cherished institutions. The proposed amendment tells a class of people (our relatives, neighbors, friends, and co-workers) that they and their families matter less than others. That sentiment does not belong in the Minnesota Constitution. We're better than that.

Do you support or oppose the voter ID amendment and why?

While I support strong voter verification laws, I can't support the sloppy and restrictive amendment proposal. The voter ID amendment is too complicated, too expensive, and too harsh. Election law is complex and ever-changing, yet this amendment would place a major election provision in the state constitution -- where it can't be changed, improved, or modernized. The idea of "photo ID" for voting seems at first like common sense. But the details matter a lot. The requirement of "government issued photo ID" could fence out hundreds of thousands of eligible voters (like the nursing home resident, the overseas service member, and the college student) who can't easily get a such ID with a current Minnesota address. It could also end same-day registration as we know it, and limit absentee voting by mail. Plus, the costs are huge -- as high as $100 million each election.

What role should state government have in caring for the less fortunate?

Sometimes, people just need help. Our government has a responsibility to try to make our state better for everyone. That doesn't mean government needs to solve everyone's problems, but it does mean that government should help people get the tools they need to solve their own problems. That might mean providing a good school, or reasonable access to health care, or a functioning transportation system, or a student loan, or job-training. As the famous saying goes, we all do better when we all do better.

What relationship should state government have with cities, counties and other local government entities?

State government should respect (and mostly defer to) the judgment of local officials on local matters. The state should eliminate some of the "mandates" that tend to tie the hands of our city councils, school boards, and county commissioners. Oversight is healthy. Micromanagement is not.

How well does the Southwest Light Rail Transit project fit the needs of the region?

As the chief author of the Southwest Corridor funding bill, I believe that light rail is a once-in-a-generation opportunity for our community. The project fills a large transportation need that can't be filled solely with more road-building, and will spur job growth and vitality throughout the region. That's why large majorities of individuals and businesses support the project. Of course, we have to do it right. That means taking great care to make sure that the associated freight rail re-route is fair to neighbors whose homes will be impacted. We also need transparency and honest numbers throughout the life of the project. As a whole, I predict that light rail will be a tremendous benefit for residents of St. Louis Park and Hopkins.

What financial incentives do you favor to encourage the establishment of high tech business in your district?

Incentives to lure business to a particular community should be the primary responsibility of local government. I can't speak directly to what the cities of St. Louis Park and Hopkins might do to attract such businesses. But I can say that Minnesota has, on a bipartisan basis, tried to roll out a statewide welcome mat for high-tech firms of all kinds. Fortunately, we have the ingredients for success: a prominent research university, an educated workforce, and a strong high-tech business community with international reach.

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