House District 26B: John Austinson
Education:Associate of Arts from Rochester Community College; Bachelor of Arts in education from Mankato State University; athletic director certificate from Winona State University; Master's degree in leadership, management and marketing from Winona State University.
Occupation:Teacher and coach for Byron Public Schools; Development Camp and Leadership Facilitator for NFL
Political experience:Never elected to political office. Former president & vice president of the Byron Education Association
Community involvement:Current Byron Community Foundation member; former Brenndan Ryan Memorial founder and chair; former Byron Athletic Hall of Fame founder and chair, and volunteer at many different community events.
Endorsements:Education Minnesota, International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers;.Minnesota Police and Peace Officers Association; AFL-CIO, AFSCME, Minnesota Nurses Association, SEIU, Clean Water Action and TEMPO
What would be your top three priorities?
1. Advancing Education
2. Promote Rural/Agricultural Issues
3. Legislative Behavior
What should be done to help end the legislative gridlock in St. Paul?
Elected leaders must remember they're public servants instead of politicians who need to work for the people and not just their party, party leaders, or special interests. Since there are basically no cut-and-dry issues out there, leaders must work together and compromise to make policies that move Minnesota out of gridlock and forward. Also, rules need to be strengthened and strictly followed outlining specific timetables and targets for bill disclosure, discussion, and passage.
What is the biggest challenge facing greater Minnesota?
Getting past this us versus them mentality (greater Minnesota versus metro) being pushed by some legislative leaders.The different regions (southeast, Iron Range, southwest, northwest & metro) of Minnesota have different complexities no doubt, but the divisive rhetoric needs to stop. Saying that, the biggest challenge (issue) is creating equity for all property poor and/or underserved areas in regards to education, Local Government Aid & control, transportation funding, human services, and tax relief.
What should be done to address the state's long-term transportation needs?
Immediately revisit and pass the transportation and bonding bills. Then together, devise a 20-year infrastructure plan that also includes a 1-2 cent gas fee, a 2 percent wheelage fee increase on vehicles over a certain weight implemented four times over 20 years, that's constituted only to updating roads and bridges. We do not need to spend all the surplus either. It's OK to curb wasteful spending, offer tax-break incentives and save some for times of need.