WILMAR -- The DFL and GOP candidates vying for the House 12B seat both say their experience gives them the edge and makes them the better candidate for the job.
Rep. Paul Anderson, R-Starbuck, touts his more than 30 years of elected office, including township, school board, county board and four years in the Minnesota House of Representatives.
"I would say I have a lot more experience working with government," said Anderson, who is a farmer. Anderson said he has made contacts and has learned how the system works over the years. "Experience does count."
DFLer Rick Rosenfield, of Alexandria, said his 34 years of professional management and leadership roles in the manufacturing industry in Alexandria that took him across the country and around the world gives him the skills to address issues in the Minnesota Legislature.
"I am not a politician but a professional manager who agrees with most of the DFL's positions," said Rosenfield.
Their different backgrounds and experiences vary as much as their views on how to best address issues in the state.
On jobs Anderson said the best way to create them is for Minnesota to be competitive with other states and the best way to accomplish that is to reduce the commercial and industrial taxes. He said those sectors have "double taxation" because they pay local taxes and an additional statewide business tax that he said "goes up every year."
Rosenfield said the entire tax system in Minnesota should be revamped but said jobs are not created by companies or government or agencies. "Jobs are created by consumers." He said encouraging entrepreneurs to develop new markets will help get money into the hands of people who spend it -- the middle class.
Anderson said although forecasts indicate the state could have a $1 billion deficit for the next two years, it's "not as bad as it sounds," especially considering the $900 million in the state's reserve fund. He said continued streamlining of government will improve efficiency and that even without a tax increase, revenues are expected to increase 8 percent in the next two years.
Rosenfield put the anticipated deficit at $4 billion to $6 billion and said the reserve fund is like having $100 in your wallet but having $100,000 in credit card debt because of the money the state borrowed from schools and the tobacco settlement. Rosenfield said Republicans "won't admit to how big it (the deficit) is going to be" and that legislators will be "facing the largest financial problem faced by any state legislature."
Regarding the shift in funds from education, Anderson said "we all want to get it paid back as soon as possible." He said the state still owes schools about $2 billion. But he said the $50-per-student increase in education funding this year should "more than offset" the interest costs schools are paying to borrow money to make up for the fund shift.
Rosenfield said educators told him the $50-per-student increase "doesn't come close" to paying back the interest. He said there is currently "no payback plan" except anticipated revenue increases from an improved economy. At that rate, he predicts it could take up to 10 years to pay back the schools.
On transportation Anderson said inflated costs for hot mix and fuel have taken a hit on road projects. He said the state could get additional funds by partnering with local businesses that would benefit from improved roads in order to "leverage federal funds" for transportation.
Rosenfield said the state's transportation infrastructure is suffering and the system for allocating funds boils down to "whoever screams the loudest." He said the Minnesota Department of Transportation is an inefficient, "large bureaucracy that should be improved.
Resolving the partisan culture in St. Paul requires people to "listen to each other and be respectful," said Anderson, but he said that doesn't necessarily mean agreeing to issues the other side proposes -- specifically increasing taxes.
The new House District 12B includes all of Pope County, the western half of Stearns County and the southern section of Douglas County. See map linked here for more detail. Before redistricting Anderson used to represent northern Kandiyohi County.