Minnesota Senate District 41 includes Columbia Heights, St. Anthony and Hilltop, plus communities to the north that are outside the Northeaster coverage area. Republican challenger Gina Bauman is running against DFL incumbent Barbara Goodwin.
Here are their answers to Northeaster questions.
What is your education and career background?
Bauman: I was born and raised in Northeast Minneapolis, and graduated from Edison High School. I have mediation certification in family, divorce, and business from Lakewood College. My background includes several years of private sector experience in corporate finance for both non-profit and for-profit organizations as well as the proprietor of a local small business. I currently serve as a twice elected council member for the city of New Brighton, and for the last seven years have been instrumental in lowering taxes, reforming ineffective and unpopular city policies, and standing up for the concerns of constituents.
Goodwin: Bachelor degree: Hamline University, sociology and political science majors. Associate degree: North Hennepin Community College. Career: State Senator 2010-current; Hamline Graduate School instructor in Minnesota legislative practice and government contracting; Columbia Heights School Board; three terms as state representative; Minnesota Association of Professional Employees legislative affairs director; Minnesota House of Representatives majority staff director and business and labor researcher. Optician and small business owner.
If you are an experienced office holder, tell why people should favor your experience over a candidate who is new to public office; if you have not held office, tell why people should favor you over a more experienced candidate.
Goodwin: We need to get Minnesota back on track to become the model state for education, jobs, health care and transportation we once were. My comprehensive experience and training mean I know how to get things done legislatively. I know what works and what has been tried that didn’t work. People in the district know me and call on me to help solve any problems they may have with government. I am familiar with and work well with other local elected officials in our cities, school districts and counties. We have much do to after the long and deep recession. I take a common-sense, bipartisan approach to the challenges before us.
Bauman: As a small business owner, as well as an elected office holder, I have seen both the good that responsible government can do, as well as the hardship poor government can cause. The representation for this district in the State Senate has been ineffective and out of touch with the people for too long. The priority of our current senator seems to be the advancement her party’s political agenda and the special interests that support her. I have a record of getting things done, and will work to bring responsible representation that answers to the people of the district.
What is the top priority for the State Legislature in the 2013-2014 sessions?
Bauman: The State Legislature next session needs to focus on government spending reform so that we are not taxed out of our homes. Claims that we have cut all we can cut from the budget do not reflect the Minnesota’s General Fund spending, which is projected to increase 8 percent from the current budget. Given the slow economic recovery every level of government needs to prioritize spending, rather than simply raising taxes to address budget challenges. We need to stop enacting new services with poor results and concentrate on existing services that will improve the quality and prosperity of all Minnesotans.
Goodwin: Undeniably it is balancing the state budget and paying back our schools. The first year of the biennial session is the budget year. We must review the entire budget, cut what we can and create a more fair and balanced income and property tax system. What we should not do is continue to waste time on interfering with people’s private lives. We must also work on improving the availability of jobs and health care.
Name two issues on which all legislators should put party aside and pass bills this session.
Goodwin: Our budget is expected to have another $1 billion shortfall in addition to the over $3 billion we owe our schools (with interest). For the past 11 years Minnesota has had only one budget surplus, and unlike the federal government our budget must be balanced. All agencies and programs have received serious budget cuts. Property taxes continue to increase while home values have declined. We need to work together for a balanced approach to all policy issues confronting us.
Bauman: 1) Payback of funding owed to public schools for aid that has been shifted to balance the state budget needs to be a priority. Providing a fully funded and equitably administered education system is a fundamental and constitutionally mandated duty of state government. It’s time to end the politicization of educational funding, and get back to supporting core curriculum in the best interest of students. 2) Minnesota ranks 45th for business. Many mandates, regulations, along with over taxation, has hampered the business climate. Restructuring the state’s complex tax code would allow us to be more competitive leading to job growth.
If the Republican majority in the Legislature continues, what specifically will you do to prevent deadlock between the Legislature and the DFL governor?
Bauman: Although it could be difficult to work with our governor who advocates tax increases, I believe we should focus on legislation where there is common ground between the parties and not polarizing issues. The legislature is constitutionally mandated to balance the budget. There is potential agreement in “what” needs to be done in this area—the challenge is “how” to do it. In my seven years in city government I have successfully worked with colleagues of diverse political positions to implement compromises acceptable to all. With some political courage the same can be done at the state level.
Goodwin: I will work with everyone willing to work together. The last deadlock was a result of inexperienced leaders who came into the legislature without understanding compromise and the huge responsibility they had before them. They were unsure how to resolve the largest shortfall the state has ever had, so instead of focusing on that, they moved to social and religious issues. Three months went by without any attention to the budget. Rather than working from the Governor’s recommendations, a harmful budget was quickly put together and a “no compromise” attitude ensued. I believe much was learned from that experience, and I am hopeful the same set of issues won’t rear up again.
What specific needs in your district should state government address in the next two years?
Goodwin: Paying back our schools would mean that local schools would not have to borrow any more money just to meet payroll. Reducing the increasingly large class sizes would mean our kids would get better educations. Property taxes have increased though property value has declined. Projects, such as Springbrook Nature Center, need funding. Some consumer protections are also important. Transit and roads need additional attention.
Bauman: Our district has some of the oldest, busiest, and most congested road and bridge infrastructure in the state. The legislature needs to allocate funding for the existing trunk highway system over the costly and inefficient subsidized expansion of light rail. The district is also negatively impacted by the over-reach of the Metropolitan Council. This body comprises of 17 unelected members, has an operating budget of $739 million, can levy taxes and issue mandates that affect decisions and policies made by elected city governments. The legislature should at best return it to its original function of a policy advisory body.