Bennett, Price, Savick vying for House District 27A seat
All three candidates vying for the House District 27A race have a unique set of priorities that inspired them to run for the legislative seat.
First-term state Rep. Shannon Savick, DFL-Wells, said she has represented her district well during the past two years, helping to secure more than $10 million in funding for local construction projects and passing legislation to encourage recruitment of volunteer first responders. Under DFL leadership, she said the state's economy is among the strongest in the nation.
"The economy is on the way up, and all you have to do is compare us to Wisconsin," Savick said. "I don't think we want to go backwards to where we were two years ago."
Savick's Republican opponent, Peggy Bennett, said when she was younger, she had vowed never to get involved in politics. But the Albert Lea first-grade teacher changed her mind because she said she is worried the more than 750 students who have gone through her classroom won't have the same opportunities that she had unless changes are made.
"I'm just afraid they are not going to have the America I had growing up with the freedoms and the financial opportunities," she said.
Independence Party candidate Tom Price said he decided to jump into the race because he's deeply concerned about increased spending and the growing size of government. He said he also is worried about the impact property taxes are having on senior citizens, and he vowed that, if elected, he would push to get rid of property taxes for low- to -moderate-income seniors.
"It's out of hand. The spending is like a herd of buffalo stampeding through the prairie, and nobody knows how to stop it," said Price, a refrigeration mechanic for the state of Minnesota.
If elected, Savick vowed one of her focuses would be the long-term-care needs of the state's aging population. She would seek to scrap a state policy that requires individuals and their spouses to spend down their assets, including individual retirement accounts, to $3,000 before becoming eligible for assistance with long-term-care costs.
"That's wrong because people have worked hard all their lives and they shouldn't be having to live in poverty when they are senior citizens," Savick said.
Bennett said if she's elected, one of her priorities will be to work on making Minnesota more business friendly. She said it's especially important for border communities that have to compete with neighboring states for businesses. She would look at trying to reduce the state's workers compensation rates for businesses and provide property tax relief for businesses and farmers. Cutting back on excessive regulation would also be on her to-do list.
"There's a common sense balance of regulation that we need, but it has definitely gone overboard. It is costing businesses money and when we cost them money, it is costing us jobs because the companies won't locate here," Bennett said.
Price said he wants to see more support for college students struggling with the high cost of education. While federal financial assistance helps students with tuition, it often does not cover the cost of books and living expenses.
"The state of Minnesota needs to step up to the plate and offer low-interest simple loans for any Minnesota resident that has a need and wants to attend some post-secondary education facility," Price said.
When it comes to funding the state's transportation needs, the candidates take different perspectives. Savick said there does need to be a long-term funding solution, but raising taxes on gasoline — whether at the pump or the wholesale level — is the wrong way to go. She said the tax would hit people in rural Minnesota harder because they often have to drive longer distances and have less access to public transit.
"There needs to be discussion on (transportation funding), and it probably will be a tax of some kind, but whatever we tax, it needs to not hurt Greater Minnesota more than the metro," Savick said.
All of the funding options need to be on the table when trying to decide how to solve the state's long-term transportation needs, Bennett said. In addition, lawmakers need to do a better job prioritizing how the state spends its transportation funds, putting a greater emphasis on real "needs," such as roads and bridges, versus "wants," such as light-rail transit, she said.
"Some of our legislators have forgotten that early lesson, because we are funding wants, like the Senate Office Building and light-rail," Bennett said.
Price said he opposes raising the gas tax as a way to fund more transportation projects.
"We shouldn't raise the gas tax. We already can't afford to buy the gas to go to work," Price said.
Instead, he said lawmakers need to start looking at other options. A place to start might be to include more transportation projects in the bonding bill, and looking to see if some lottery funds could be used for roads.
Candidate Profile: Shannon Savick