GOP state Rep. Steve Drazkowski is seeking his seventh two-year term representing District 21B in the Minnesota House of Representatives. He is being challenged by Democrat Jonathan Isenor. District 21B covers portions of Goodhue, Dodge, Wabasha and Winona counties.
Drazkowski worked as a county extension educator with the University of Minnesota Extension Service for 15 years. He currently owns and operates his family's fourth-generation retail shoe business, Baker Shoes, in Winona.
Isner grew up in Blooming Prairie and graduated in 2000. He formerly worked as a workers compensation attorney for injured or sick workers.
1. If elected, what would be your top priority for the 2019 legislative session? Why are you running?
Drazkowski: We have a state government too often more focused on serving itself than the very people who give it license to operate. We see an attitude in government that forgets who serves whom. Government is getting wealthier at the expense of the hard-working Minnesotans who pay its bills. Waste, fraud, and abuse of taxpayer resources runs rampant. I will advocate tirelessly to hold government accountable to the people it’s designed to serve.
My top priority will be tax reform. The first item of business for the Legislature will be passing a tax bill that conforms Minnesota’s income tax system to the changes that Congress made with the federal Tax Cuts and Jobs Act. I will also work hard to pass my house, garage, and 1-acre property tax and school funding fairness proposal. Lastly, with an expected surplus, or over-collection of taxes, we will need to cut taxes.
Isenor: On Day One, I will fight tooth and nail to make sure every home in Minnesota has cheap and reliable broadband. Nothing makes the rural urban divide more clear than broadband. Our infrastructure is being neglected statewide, but ignoring rural areas is hurting the entire economy of the state. Minnesotans across the state feel ignored. Saint Paul needs a gesture that it is listening and that it can still get things done.
2. End-of-session gridlock is becoming a recurring theme at the Capitol. What specific measures do you support to increase transparency and reduce partisan gridlock?
Drazkowski: This has become a problem when both Democrats and Republicans have been in control. We have a process that ends up placing too much power into the hands of 3 people (speaker of the House, Senate majority leader, and governor). Huge omnibus bills have become the legislative vehicle of choice. First, we need to develop House rules that require budget bills to be completed and sent to the governor earlier, allowing for multiple attempts at reaching budgetary agreement. Secondly, I plan to continue the bipartisan discussion that I was involved in last session, to propose a constitutional amendment to strengthen the single subject clause of the Minnesota Constitution, which would severely limit the use of huge omnibus bills and increase the transparency of the process.
Isenor: I focused on mediation in law school. A goal of mediation is to get people to negotiate. I understand that open negotiation can be intimidating but a democracy requires that our representatives have conversations in the open because that’s the only way the voters can know they are being heard. In short, you can’t represent people in closed-door meetings.
3. Do you support a public buy-in for MinnesotaCare, the state program for low-income people? What measures do you support to increase access to affordable health care?
Drazkowski: No. Obamacare and the Medicaid expansion enacted by Gov. Dayton in January of 2011 have decimated our health care system in Minnesota. With these medicaid programs, when the government pays the hospitals, they only pay them at 50 percent of the cost. That raises the price of health care for those who are not on the government program, and weakens our rural hospitals, limiting the ability for people to access health care. Doubling down on a failed government takeover of health care (Obamacare) will further reduce access and increase prices. The Democrat proposal to push all of us on the program will cost $34 billion per biennium, a 70% increase in taxes. Instead, we need to increase price transparency, increase health insurance and health care choices for people, reduce government mandates, and bring free market incentives for people to plan and save for their health care costs.
Isenor: I do support a buy-in system. We have so many obstacles between today and giving our kids the life they should have growing up in Minnesota. As a cancer survivor, even with insurance, I know what happens when you hit one of those obstacles. In rural areas, those obstacles get bigger and harder. We have to use our government to remove those obstacles so that we can live the best life we can and go as far as we can. My wife and I are holding on to raise our kids in our beautiful town. Right now, I can’t see how our grandkids could live here if they hit any of those obstacles.