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Gimse wants line-item budgeting

WILLMAR -- Government in the state of Minnesota should focus on its core mission and stick to zero-based, line-item budgeting -- an approach Sen. Joe Gimse says he'll continue to advocate if he is elected to a second term during the elections.

"We all are responsible for balancing that budget and working together," Gimse said.

"We need to work together and not point fingers."

The 53-year-old businessman from Willmar is seeking election to a second term as state senator from District 13, an office he won in an upset four years ago against longtime legislator and Senate Majority Leader Dean Johnson.

Gimse, a Republican, is being challenged by DFL'er Larry Rice of Willmar.

Gimse says he has established himself during his first term and is hearing good feedback from constituents.

"I think people have come to know me and appreciate the work that I have done... I have yet to hear a negative comment," he said.

Gimse represents a diverse district that includes Kandiyohi County, southern Pope and southwestern Stearns counties. As he's knocked on doors this fall, one of the top concerns he says he's hearing from voters is the level of government spending.

"They are concerned about our budget deficit. They don't want their taxes increased, I believe, as the primary solution to that problem," he said.

He said he supports continuing the same level of education funding.

"It's always been a tradition that we have a good education system and that we fund it," he said.

But Gimse said he thinks weary taxpayers also are ready to embrace his approach of asking each government agency to justify its line-item spending based on the agency's core mission.

This is what businesses do when they need to manage their spending, he said. "We just need to face the facts and get down to what is essential... I don't think at this point in time an increase in taxes should even be discussed."

It's a lesson Gimse personally experienced this past year. Gimse Brothers, the land development and construction company he owns with his brother, defaulted on more than $500,000 in business loans and property taxes and was sued by the bank that held the notes. An agreement that was reached with the bank was signed by all the parties on Sept. 1.

Gimse said the company's financial difficulties were a reflection of the recession the economy has been through. Many businesses have struggled and "I'm no exception to that," he said.

Of the hundreds of people he's talked to during his campaign this fall, only a couple of people have even brought it up, he said.

During his freshman term at the state Capitol, Gimse gained a seat on several Senate committees, including the Agriculture and Veterans Committee, the Transportation Committee and the Business, Industry and Jobs Committee.

He also began carving out a niche on immigration issues, founding a bipartisan caucus for legislators on both sides of the aisle to come together and talk about issues surrounding legislation on immigration.

It earned him some time in the limelight this past spring when he introduced a bill calling for funding to train Minnesota law enforcement officers in immigration enforcement. Although there was support in several circles for the bill, detractors said it would lead to racial profiling.

Gimse said he's interested in the use of biometric technology to help combat fraudulent passports, driver's licenses and other forms of ID that might be used to illegally cross the U.S. border.

During his first term, "we just scratched the surface" on immigration issues, he said. "I think we made significant progress in informing and educating legislators."

Gimse said he's been able to build relationships at the Capitol and is ready to tackle a second term.

"It's been a heck of an experience, a heck of a learning experience for me," he said. "There hasn't been a low point. If I didn't feel that way, I wouldn't have sought re-election."

Anne Polta

Anne Polta covers health care, business/economic development and general assignment. Her HealthBeat blog can be found at Follow her on Twitter at @AnnePolta.

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