In the two weeks since ousting veteran legislator Al Juhnke from the House 13B seat, Bruce Vogel has been busy getting his house in order in Willmar before he leaves to set up a new house and office in St. Paul.
Vogel has already been to the Capitol twice for orientation sessions, found an apartment, found a roommate to share the rent -- fellow freshman Repu-blican lawmaker Chris Swed-zinski from District 21A, filled out forms for getting paid, read pages of documents and re-ceived e-mails from lawmakers looking for co-sponsors on bills.
"It's been quite exciting," Vo-gel said in an interview Monday. "I'm very grateful to all those who voted for me and helped me get me where I am and put me in office."
The self-proclaimed optimist who thought he maybe had a shot at winning the election confessed that even he was a little bit surprised that he actually won.
"I know a lot of people were surprised that I was able to unseat Al," said Vogel. "It wasn't expected."
While at the Capitol earlier this month, veteran Republican lawmakers gave Vogel congratulatory handshakes when they found out whom Vogel had defeated. "Obviously, it was a pretty big surprise to them," he said.
Vogel defeated Juhnke by 801 votes, ending Juhnke's 14-year tenure in the House.
"It's quite an honor to have responsibility and this opportunity to serve the people," said Vogel, a real estate agent from Willmar.
Dealing with the state's budget deficit is going to be a challenge, and "it's definitely going to take a lot of work," said Vogel.
Although more will be known when the financial projections are released in December, Vogel said his party intends to keep the budget to $33 billion.
He said there will not be an expansion of spending and there will not likely be an increase in taxes.
Vogel signed the Taxpayers League "no new taxes" pledge.
"I'm not ashamed of that," said Vogel. "I feel we can do this without raising taxes."
He said Democrat Mark Dayton's proposal to raise taxes on wealthy Minnesotans will have a tough time passing in the Republican-controlled House and Senate.
Taxing the rich "creates a class envy," he said. "Rich people are mobile people. They will just move. They'll move to another state."
Vogel said lowering taxes on small business and corporations is what's needed to keep business and jobs here. "We have too many people going out of our state. We're losing jobs left and right." The more jobs that are in the state, the more revenue the state has, he said.
Vogel said the definition of a spending "cut" also needs to be clarified. He said a cut should mean that less money is being spent this year than last year.
He said if Democrats propose a 17 percent spending increase, but only get a 7 percent increase, they call that a 10 percent cut. Vogel said government can't continue to grow at that rate.
He also said there needs to be equity in how money is spent in the state. Vogel said it's wrong for schools in rural Minnesota get $3,000 to $4,300 less per student in state aid than students in Minneapolis.
"One student is not more valuable than another, no matter what part of the state they're in," he said.
Figuring out the balance and getting legislation approved will be challenging, but Vogel said he's a "problem solver" by nature and is confident a solution can be reached, even if Dayton is confirmed as governor.
A recount of the governor's race is set to begin Nov. 29. Dayton holds a lead of nearly 9,000 votes currently.
And Vogel does believe Dayton will eventually be seated as governor over Republican Tom Emmer.
"Yeah, I do," he said. "It's a pretty big hill for Emmer to climb right now."
As part of the party's promise to make government live within its means, Vogel said the new majority leaders intend to reduce the number of committees in the House and Senate, and tighten up the per diem legislators receive.
Getting used to the new routine of work and travel is being softened a bit this year for legislators.
Vogel said the Republican caucus has decided to implement a "family friendly" schedule that will end weekly legislative sessions by Thursday night or Friday noon, and then restart at noon Monday. In the past, sessions began at 8 a.m. Monday.
Vogel, an empty-nester with four grandchildren, said the new schedule will make it easier for legislators with small children to be home on weekends and stay involved with their families and communities.
Before Vogel heads back to the Capitol the first week of December for a three-day freshman orientation session, where topics like how to author a bill will be covered, he's making some changes to his business, Lakes Area Realty, that will still allow him to continue to serve his clients while he's in St. Paul.
He doesn't know where his House office will be located yet, but said he's eager to make the move in December.
"I'm just very much looking forward to getting down there and getting to work," he said. "I hope to earn the trust of voters and the rest of the people in the district over the next two years."