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Dist 20B: Koenen poised to promote rural agenda in St. Paul

CLARA CITY -- Lyle Koenen has fended off challengers in three, hard-fought elections and is now poised like never before if returned to the Legislature for a fourth term.

The DFL'er from Clara City started out in a Republican controlled House, but today his party holds the majority and Koenen has the seniority to play a very prominent role.

But this is no time for politics, according to Koenen, 52. He said his goals remain no different than when he first began representing the district. He wants to be a voice for rural Minnesota, and for solutions that benefit the farmers and working people of District 20B.

Nothing chafes him more than when those on the extremes of both parties bring politics to the House floor when real business needs to be done, said Koenen. "You can tell when it's coming,'' said the legislator.

He knows well what's coming when the Legislature convenes next year: The state will be facing a major budget deficit and the challenges of an uncertain economy.

That's where Koenen believes his experience and perspective can play an important role. Koenen said he knows the hurt that resulted when budget cuts were made by a Republican led Legislature in 2003.

He said the Legislature needs to address the upcoming budget deficit as it did last session. He supports making cuts, tapping reserves and raising revenues to balance the budget.

There are ways to raise revenues while not raising taxes on farmers and working people, according to Koenen. He supports making the state's tax system more progressive. He'd require the wealthiest people in the state to pay the same share of their income in taxes as do those in the lower and middle income brackets.

The candidate said he'd support legislation to increase taxes for those earning more than $400,000 a year.

Koenen said he also wants to return to St. Paul to fight for more equitable education funding, and for better overall support for education. Minnesota's education policy should be to provide students with the best so that they can compete for the best jobs in a world economy, he explained.

He wants the state to shoulder more of the costs for education, but said he also wants more local control. Local school boards should have greater autonomy and flexibility to do what's best for their districts, he said.

The incumbent said he remains committed to rebuilding the district's roads and bridges, and points to the gas tax increase approved during the last session as an important accomplishment.

He also said the state needs to remain committed to developing ethanol, wind and bio-fuels industries.

Koenen said his three terms in office have only strengthened his interest in serving. He enjoys the opportunity to develop policy and work with people most of all, he said.

Koenen and his wife Sandy are parents of four children. He operated a family dairy farm for 25 years and raised beef cattle for two years after. He currently is a milk hauler and school bus driver.

He is part of a politically active family. His father Kenneth is a Chippewa County commissioner and his brother Kurt is the Mayor of Clara City. All three are running for re-election and have opponents.