Education: Business degree, Gustavus Adolphus College; electrical engineering degree, University of Colorado at Denver.
Family: Married to Pam for 26 years; two sons, David and Dylan.
Occupation: Electrical engineer and certified project manager, Prairie Island Nuclear Generating Plant
How can Minnesota leaders come to an agreement about reliable transportation funding? How would you work towards this?
The transportation issue is an important topic that needs to be addressed, but it is no different from other legislative issues that are also hindered by a lack of communication between the two parties. Until we increase interparty member communication within the halls and chambers of the legislature, and legislators’ social interaction as well, these problems will persist. A key ingredient for a functioning legislative body is working venues for cross-aisle communication that lead to trust and cooperation, and ultimately, to enactment of legislation. About 20 state senators have joined the Purple Caucus, a collaborative group started in 2013 to break through gridlock and find compromise in the legislature and this fact deserves our recognition. In my job as a project manager I gather information, find the best talent and ideas no matter where they come from and then, develop the plan and then implement the plan.
What can be done to deal with the partisan gridlock at the Capitol?
The legislative process in Minnesota is in need of serious evaluation if we want to streamline the process so that it becomes more productive and orderly for all concerned. We need to enact good government changes that end occurrences like those end of session Omnibus bill frenzies that end up with neither legislators, the executive branch nor the general public having time to review huge bills before some midnight deadline arrives. A good place to start would be to consider establishing a new rule requiring that conference committee reports be finalized one week before the end of the session. Again, we should encourage groups like the Minnesota Senate Purple Caucus, a group that supports bipartisan legislative efforts to find ways to reach measured and reasonable solutions that benefit all Minnesotans.
How can Minnesota level the playing field for school; funding between Greater Minnesota and metro schools?
Our children need access to excellent teachers and schools. We need to ensure teacher quality in the classroom and establish graduation standards so that students are prepared for the future. I oppose one-size-fits-all mandates handed down by bureaucrats in state government. The funding gap between rural and metro students is unacceptable. There is no excuse for Minneapolis to be getting twice as much in funding per pupil than Zumbrota, Lake City, or anywhere else in the state.
Education: Bachelor of Arts, St. John’s University; Masters, University of Minnesota.
Occupation: Small business owner and consultant
How can Minnesota leaders come to an agreement about reliable transportation funding? How would you work toward this?
Experts agree Minnesota has an annual transportation funding gap of approximately $800 million. With federal and state commitments not keeping pace with growing costs, local governments have resorted to property, sales, and wheelage taxes to address their priorities. The state should do more to keep pace with Minnesota’s road and bridge funding needs – to maintain critical infrastructure, to spur growth and commerce, and to reduce local taxes.
Republicans and Democrats from the House and Senate serving on the Transportation Conference Committee recognized this challenge and the opportunity Minnesota has to leverage its strong budget for long-term investment in transportation. On principal, we agreed to an approach consisting of three important components. Similar to the three legs of a stool, each component is necessary to make the agreement stand: current surplus or general fund dollars, state bonding to leverage low interest rates, and new revenue constitutionally dedicated to roads/bridges.
What can be done to deal with partisan gridlock at the Capitol?
I support the bipartisan proposal for a new deadline by which each legislative body must pass all major bills well before the constitutionally-mandated legislative session adjournment date. This would help the legislature avoid the situation we saw this past session in which the Senate released its bonding bill with over a month to spare and the House waited until the final days of session to share its plan.
I also enjoy working across the aisle on issues that unite Democrats and Republicans. Take the imperative for rural broadband Internet access. There may be no better example of bipartisanship over the past two years than was evident in our push for broadband investment.
Identifying an issue of shared interest and pursuing a constructive path is how we’ve accomplished so much in this area. I look forward to applying this same approach and intensity to addressing Minnesota’s health insurance market failure.
How can Minnesota level the playing field for school funding between Greater Minnesota and metro schools?
Helping Greater Minnesota schools has been a priority for this state Senate. Our approach included: (1) Appropriate state funding. Past legislatures delayed payments to schools for shell-game budgeting; we repaid this “shift” and provided new funding that keeps up with inflation, helping many rural districts get back on their feet; (2) Investment in aging infrastructure. We targeted investment in aging rural school facilities, helping our schools invest in the classroom — and the roof; (3) Equalized funding. Property tax wealth varies considerably throughout Minnesota and many rural districts are at a disadvantage; we promoted equalized school funding that provides high-quality education for all Minnesota students; (4) Flexibility for rural schools. One-size-fits-all seldom works well; we promoted approaches to early childhood and all-day kindergarten that work for rural schools — giving them the funding and flexibility they need; and (5) direct property tax relief for farmers contributing to school capital levies.