Northeast Minneapolis lies within Minnesota House District 60A, and this year’s race has two contenders, Diane Loeffler and Brent Millsop. Loeffler, the DFL incumbent, has held the office for eight years. She lives with her husband Mike Vennewitz in the Windom Park Neighborhood and works for Hennepin County. Brent Millsop, the Republican challenger, is an entrepreneur and home school father who has lived in Northeast more than 21 years. He and his wife have four children. He is an Air Force veteran.
Following are their answers to four Northeaster questions. The first question has two versions, one each tailored to the specific candidate.
The first question deals with political experience. The candidates were asked how the incumbent’s experience or the challengers’ fresh approach will offer an advantage for the voters.
Millsop responded, “The DFL does indeed have a long political history in Minnesota and it dominated the legislature for many decades. During that time, taxes and regulations were increased, jobs moved away, and our population growth was so small relative to other states that we almost lost a Congressional seat in the last census. The “experience” of our district’s DFL has led us to a stagnant economy and high unemployment. Forty percent of our state budget is invested in education, and we have one of the largest graduation gaps for minorities. I believe the Republican Party’s “fresh” approach is clearly to embrace a common sense attitude in government. We should keep taxes low, simplify and remove burdensome regulations, and trim deficit financing of public works projects while addressing these disparities honestly. The record and history is clear.”
Loeffler responded, “Fresh approaches come from all parties and both new and experienced legislators. There are many examples. That’s why I helped create and now co-chair the Bipartisan Government Redesign Caucus. Our work has resulted in passed legislation, a stronger partnership with local governments, created new opportunities for local innovation, and helped inspire the TPT2 (television) series Redesigning MN. Experience gives one a fuller understanding of statewide differences (the ideal program for Minneapolis may not work in a rural city), and a stronger ability to guide ideas into law in a competitive process in which thousands of good ideas are introduced but only a small portion of them ever become law. I’m proud that many ideas I’ve brought forward are now law. I’m enthusiastic about passing others and enjoy the work of transforming ideas into law. The ideas of local residents are always welcome and some have led to my initiating law changes.”
In the likely event that there will once again be a deadlock between Republican legislators and Minnesota’s DFL governor, what specifically (with examples) will you attempt to do to break this deadlock?
Loeffler: “I hope that deadlock is not “likely.” While the media doesn’t cover it, most laws pass with bipartisan votes. Our checks and balances require all three (House, Senate, Governor) to work together to find common ground where possible, and accept compromises on both sides when needed. With split party control, the voters add another check and expect us to work together.
I initiated a bipartisan legislative reform effort focused on improving our decision making and avoiding gridlock. Legislators of both parties submitted ideas and voted on them. Many of those ideas have been implemented and help us better manage the process and focus on positive shared outcomes. That’s just one example of how I’ve brought people of different parties together around shared concerns. I have done that in initiatives small and large and will continue to do that as a way to promote positive change and avoid and address gridlock.”
Millsop’s response: “There will always be areas of disagreement in a republic and being a strong advocate for your point of view should never be disparaged. Certain issues can, if approached correctly, enjoy broad bi-partisan support. I plan to work for across the board property tax relief. If the DFL would want to weight the relief more heavily to low-income households I would still support the measure. I want to simplify the regulatory bureaucracy, especially business permitting and environmental regulations. The creation of a “one-stop-shop” for regulatory compliance would combine agencies and thus be more cost effective. If handled properly this could streamline the process for business and government and would not diminish any regulations currently in force.”
Identify two issues upon which all legislators should put party affiliations aside in order to pass bills this session.
Millsop: “I don’t see how any argument could be made for more taxes since Minnesota citizens are taxed at the sixth highest overall rate in the country. Both parties could and should come together to pass a balanced budget with no increase in any taxes. Both parties should also come together to pass tax relief for “simple savings.” This means removing the taxes from interest earned on simple savings accounts, certificates of deposit, and government bonds. This is a concern for middle and lower income families who are trying to put aside money for retirement or college. It would encourage thrift and help everyone be more prepared for financial setbacks.”
Loeffler: 1) “Education. We need to adopt a sustainable plan to adequately fund education from early childhood to post-secondary completion and worker retraining. We need to get kids off to a good start and will only maintain good jobs in a global economy if we have a skilled workforce. 2) A strong budget that includes tax reform. The state needs to be a reliable partner in funding our schools, higher education financial aid, supports for children and adults with disabilities, transit and transportation, and public safety. We have shifted too much of the burden of funding critical services onto local property taxes at a time of declining property values. We need to restore fairness in a system that offers too many special breaks to some taxpayers.”
What specific needs does your district have that state government should address this session?
Loeffler: 1) “Access to quality education for all of our children from early childhood to financial help and access to higher education. Preparing our children for the future is a high value in our community. Too many students are being served in large classes in schools struggling to fund the basics. The achievement gap in learning has to be addressed. Our students graduate from higher education with too much debt. We can and must do better. 2) Adequate funding for the local government services that help make this a successful and vibrant community. Our local governments deliver many services that we depend on: public safety, transit, good roads, libraries, parks, and supports for persons with disabilities or mental health challenges. The state needs to be a strong partner in these so everyone has access to the basics without unfair levels of property taxes.”
Millsop: “As I go door to door in Northeast Minneapolis, I am shocked and saddened by the number of foreclosures I see. One immediate way the government could help people stay in their homes would be to pass property-tax relief or otherwise expand the property tax rebate. This would also help renters in the district.”