The two candidates for State House of Representative District 11B, Tim Burkhardt (DFL) of Hinckley and Nathan Nelson (R) of Hinckley, were asked a series of questions which are shared here as part of our voters’ guide. Each of the candidates were given a word limit of 1,000 words. The special election will take place on Tuesday, March 19.
Tim Burkhardt, DFL, of Hinckley
1. If elected, what is your top priority for the 2019 Legislature? Why are you running for office? My top priority is healthcare reform and responsible, transparent, government spending. Healthcare touches everyone and has become unaffordable for many. Likewise, the cost of prescription drugs has skyrocketed and endangered the lives and well-being of thousands. I support an independent, external audit of the $6 billion dollars per year given to HMOs. Taxpayers deserve an itemized invoice for this government spending.
2. Briefly summarize your personal background and qualifications. I worked for over 18 years as the 7 County Senior Federation's executive director where my duties ranged from shoveling the sidewalk, to developing and administering a $450,000 annual budget, to supervising a dozen employees and 130 volunteers. Elected/re-elected to the Hinckley City Council for three terms. Currently vice-president and board member (9 yrs) for the MN Association of Small Cities. Served 6 years as a Hinckley Planning Commission member, 9 years on the Park Board, and created Sweet Summer Sounds (2015). I have served on or been a part of the Hinckley Lions, Hinckley Athletic Association, Hinckley Youth Summer Rec program, Knights of Columbus, Chambers of Commerce in Hinckley-Mora-Pine City, Convention and Visitors Bureau Board, East Central Housing Organization, and the Pine Housing Initiative. I’ve been a Pine County resident for 42 years, married to my wife Kathy for 43 years, and we have two children, Andrew and Peter.
3. Do you support the Governor’s proposal for an increased gas tax? What is your preference for raising additional money for roads and bridges? I think there are better solutions than a 20 cent per gallon increase in the gas tax and don't support it. Creating/maintaining a fund that meets the needs of the state road system needs to take technology changes into account. Consideration of a statewide wheelage fee/tax combined with a much smaller gas tax might be a better first step. There’s no debate that our roads and bridges need a sustainable fund, so finding a fairer way to do it should make sense to our citizens.
4. What is your opinion on current strides toward renewable energy versus using the fossil fuel we currently have available? What kind of timeline would you set to move toward renewable energy? Proudly, Minnesota is a leader in transitioning to renewable energy, which will shortly overtake nuclear power as the second leading source of power generation in Minnesota, just behind coal (39 percent of current energy in MN). Technology advances in energy storage capacity will make sources like wind and solar more efficient and cost-effective. We’re on track to reach 25 percent of energy via renewables by 2025. All indications show that by 2050 we should be able to attain a 70 percent renewable level. If it can be done faster, we’ll all save significant costs. It’s a fair timeline.
5. What is your position on abortion and end of life care? I am Pro-Life and do not support abortions, other than in a narrow set of circumstances. End of life care also presents heartbreaking situations and decisions for family members and caregivers. I do not favor euthanasia; assisted suicide goes against my values. Living wills (end of life directives) provide insight into the wishes of the person who is nearing the end of their natural life, and extraordinary, life-prolonging measures should not be employed if they go against those wishes.
6. What is your stance on the bill known as the “Red Flag” bill (HF9)? Better communication and collaboration between schools, law enforcement, the courts and more would help solve the problem of unstable people having access to firearms. If the communication lines were followed in something like the Parkland shooting, there’s a high probability the tragedy could have been averted … but established procedures were not followed. As a gun owner, I don’t want anyone taking my guns. Conversely, if someone is a recognized perpetrator of domestic violence/abuse, I think that is a good reason to not allow that person to purchase or own a firearm.
7. What is your stance on Universal background checks for gun purchases (HF8)? As a gun owner, I and law abiding citizens would have no issue with going through a universal background check to buy a gun. Unfortunately, most criminals acquire their weapons “under the radar”, so the background check may help solve a small part of the problem, but that’s all.
8. What is your stance on rural broadband expansion (HF7)? If greater Minnesota is to remain a viable place to live, work and go to school, high-speed internet is essential. Businesses with access to broadband have the ability to remain competitive in their marketplace. The $70 million price tag (over 2 years) needs to be examined for how best to implement the rollout. Block grants should require strong accountability for all recipients.
9. What would you do with the expected $1 billion in state budget surplus? Minnesota has had strong economic growth for over 9 years, during which we have gradually replaced school funding that took a severe hit in a downturned economy almost 12 years ago. I believe part of the projected surplus should be dedicated to restoring public education funding levels, along with road funding needs, especially in rural Minnesota. Townships and small cities need a permanent fund to assist with their road maintenance projects as they do not currently receive State Aid Highway dollars directly. I support bills HF 780 and HF 781 aimed to help townships and small cities' road funding.
10. How would you address the affordability of healthcare? Passing the MNcare buy-in proposal would help make affordable healthcare available to thousands of citizens if implemented on a direct contract basis. Also, auditing the $6 billion per year contract between Minnesota and the HMOs which administer MNcare and Medicaid.
11. What is your opinion on the HF13 bill to put the following yes-no question on the 2020 ballot which would amend the state constitution: “Shall the Minnesota Constitution be amended to provide that equality under the law must not be abridged or denied on account of gender?” I believe the ERA should finally be passed by the state in order to codify all the elements of equal rights, regardless of gender. It should be decided by Minnesota citizens.
12. What are your thoughts on taxation of businesses on the local level? Small businesses have it tough, especially in greater Minnesota. I support simplifying permitting processes and reducing red tape for small business. I favor raising the exemption on business income from the current $100,000 level to at least $200,000. This would significantly reduce the tax burden on small businesses statewide, bringing immediate tax relief.
13. Are there any other bills in the House that you support or concern you? Triggered in part by insulin pricing, there is currently a bill called “the anti-price gouging bill” which monitors pricing of prescription drugs and examines significant, unjustified price hikes to bring transparency to an industry that controls the well-being of millions of citizens.
14. What is your stance on NLX? NLX studies now show it is not self-sustaining, requiring subsidies for the foreseeable future if it becomes reality. They also show there’s little savings in total travel time between the Twin Cities and Duluth. It's not common sense.
Nathan Nelson, (R), of Hinckley
1. If elected, what is your top priority for the 2019 Legislature? Why are you running for office? I am running to be a voice for rural communities, for agriculture, and to make sure our communities can grow and succeed for years to come. My top priority will be working toward investments in roads and bridges—without a gas tax increase. I oppose Gov. Walz's 20 cent gas tax hike because our state currently has a $1 billion surplus and demonstrated last year that we could fund road and bridge improvements without a gas tax.
2. Briefly summarize your personal background and qualifications. I am the third generation to own and operate our family farm east of Hinckley where we raise beef cattle and grow crops. I have served in many volunteer capacities on local boards and committees, including being elected as Supervisor for Clover Township for the past nine years. I am the President of Pine County Farm Bureau and also have served on the U of M Extension Regional Sustainable Development Partnership board for the past three years. I have been through MARL (Minnesota Agriculture & Rural Leadership) which is an intensive leadership program. My family's roots in this district go back more than 100 years. I know the issues and challenges facing the area and will work to give voice to those concerns in Saint Paul.
3. Do you support the Governor’s proposal for an increased gas tax? What is your preference for raising additional money for roads and bridges? I do not support Gov. Walz's proposal to raise the gas tax by 70 percent. Last session, the legislature dedicated half of existing auto-related sales taxes to roads and bridges—we should continue down that path because the government has already dedicated money for roads and bridges, and should prioritize those funds to infrastructure first, rather than raising your taxes to pay for them.
4. What is your opinion on current strides toward renewable energy versus using the fossil fuel we currently have available? What kind of timeline would you set to move toward renewable energy? We all want to make our energy cleaner, but renewable energy mandates will make energy bills more expensive and make our energy grid less reliable. We need an all-of-the-above energy approach that takes advantage of all energy sources (natural gas, wind, solar, hydro, nuclear, and coal) and ensures that during cold snaps and polar vortexes we don't need to ask people to turn the heat down just to keep the heat working.
5. What is your position on abortion and end of life care? I am proudly pro-life and earned a 100 percent candidate survey score from Minnesota Citizens Concerned for Life (MCCL). I will protect life at all stages from the womb until natural death.
6. What is your stance on the bill known as the “Red Flag” bill (HF9)? The red-flag bill allows the government to take guns away from people even if they haven't been charged or convicted of a crime. It violates the Second, Fourth, and Fifth amendments to the Constitution. It's a violation of due process rights, as well as your Second Amendment rights. We need to make sure we are addressing the needs of the individual in crisis and make sure they have the resources and help they need instead of taking away their rights along with everyone else’s.
7. What is your stance on Universal background checks for gun purchases (HF8)? I support the criminal background checks that are already law. However, this background check bill would create new hoops for law abiding gun owners. In its original form, the bill would create a gun registration by requiring a new permit to purchase each time someone wants to exercise their Second Amendment right to purchase a gun. It also has major penalties if you transfer a gun legally but misplace the paperwork even if the transfer happened years ago. We all want to keep guns out of the hands of violent criminals, but this bill won't stop criminals who don't follow the law to begin with. Nearly 80 percent of crimes committed with firearms are committed with illegally obtained firearms.
8. What is your stance on rural broadband expansion (HF7)? People in our area need access to high-speed internet—it's something that will keep our area competitive with other parts of the state and give our schools, businesses, and families tools they need to compete and work from home. Being able to work from home would reduce the number of commuters on our busy highways, lightening the load on our infrastructure.
9. What would you do with the expected $1 billion in state budget surplus? With a $1 billion surplus, tax increases should be off the table. The legislature should use some of that money to invest in our roads and bridges, broadband, and provide some tax relief.
10. How would you address the affordability of healthcare? We need more competition and transparency in health care. I support efforts to bring more health plans into the marketplace—that competition will give people more options to choose what works best for their families and drive down costs. We also need to make sure people have the ability to shop around for the best deals when they can, and force providers to compete with one another.
11. What is your opinion on the HF13 bill to put the following yes-no question on the 2020 ballot which would amend the state constitution: “Shall the Minnesota Constitution be amended to provide that equality under the law must not be abridged or denied on account of gender?” I support equal rights for women and want to make sure my daughters have every opportunity to succeed in Minnesota. However, this bill has been twisted by interest groups—Republicans offered an amendment to this bill that would have made the bill neutral on the issue of abortion—amendments like this have been used in other states to challenge pro-life laws. I would not support something that could be twisted to increase abortion in this state.
12. What are your thoughts on taxation of businesses on the local level? Property taxes on families and businesses are too high. I was disappointed to see Gov. Walz putting a billion dollar property tax increase in his budget—our small businesses are already pinched enough as it is. I want to work to ease the burden on local small businesses so they aren't hurt by sky-high property taxes and can compete with bigger businesses elsewhere in the state. The customers are the ones that will ultimately pay the taxes that are levied on to local businesses.
13. Are there any other bills in the House that you support or concern you? House Democrats are pushing to reinstate the sick tax which would add a billion dollars to our health care costs in the next two years. Legislators should be pushing any bill they can to lower health care costs instead of working to bring back a tax that makes health care more expensive.
14. What is your stance on NLX? Instead of spending money on an expensive train, that money would be better spent expanding broadband so people can work from home or rebuilding roads and bridges to reduce congestion.