If elected, what is your top priority for the 2021 Legislature? Why are you running for office?
Roger Steinkamp: I’m running because of my concern that many (the majority) of citizens were being ignored. Hatred was dominating political speech and actions. And citizens need to be included in decision making, not compliant to authority.
John Jasinski: The 2021 Legislative session will be very challenging given the budget forecast. The February forecast had a proposed $1.65 billion surplus, now given Gov. Walz’s shutdown, we are looking at a $6.6 billion dollar deficit in the next two years. We will need to work hard to get Minnesota’s economy back on track and balance the budget. I am running again because I enjoy representing District 24, and I believe we need a strong voice for greater Minnesota at the Capitol. The overwhelming positive support I have gotten from a vast majority of the citizens in this district has given me increasing energy to continue to be their voice in at the Minnesota Capitol.
The Legislature will be tasked with adopting a two-year budget in 2021 with a looming shortfall due to the financial impact of COVID-19. What will be your approach to balancing the budget in terms of reducing spending and/or raising taxes and fees?
RS: We don’t know the final tab yet. We have many resources to tap into. Luckily we have the rainy-day reserve to help, and didn’t give it away. If the federal government steps up and does play partisan politics with funds, that will help. Statewide we will all need to do our part to pull through. It won’t be easy. We still need the bonding bill for badly needed infrastructure. Just equitable taxation will be necesary. Most importantly there is ample opportunity for the private sector. Communities will need to play an important roll in making the tough decisions.
JJ: The budget will be a challenging item this session. We will have to look on how we can stimulate the economy to increase revenues while we also look to find areas we can reduce spending on programs that are not efficient. Last session Senate republicans worked on finding areas where we could find waste, fraud and abuse of government services. We will have to continue down this track and investigate money that is being spent by the existing administration that is not effective.
COVID-19 resulted in dramatic changes to the delivery of education. What weaknesses in the system were highlighted by distance learning? Did we identify any best practices that should be incorporated in the post-pandemic era?
RS: Distance learning in itself is a new area for instruction. One does not simply throw the switch and turn it on. Hats off to our teachers, administrators and parents who have scrambled to make the best of a bad situation.
The greatest weakness at the moment is delivering enough band width and devises equitably to all students. Sitting in a parking lot on an android phone is not what we need to do.
The best practice is to supply the funds and personnel that schools need to refurbish our education system. We are clever and dedicated people of good will. Let us not get stuck in a blame game.
JJ: Remote learning in our schools has not been an effective way to educate our children. We need to work to get our kids back in school. The achievement gap is large in Minnesota, and we need continue to try and close that gap. Remote learning has improved slightly since we first started but it is not what we want for our children. Technology in our states lower income families is not equivalent to what higher income families have, that is why we need to get our kids safely back into schools.
Affordable health care remains a concern to many Minnesotans. Do you support expansion of government-run health insurance plans? If not, what options do you support to stabilize health insurance premiums?
RS: We are the only industrialized country that does not have universal health care. The private sector has various roles in the system, but the government plays the central role. The main premise is everyone has the right to good health care, not just access to a system that rations care by income. We can figure that out. If not, let’s take a look at what everyone else does.
JJ: I do not support the expansion of government-run health insurance plans. I think we need more options with market rate competitive insurance companies that will drive the price of premiums down. The expansion of government run health plans will only hurt greater Minnesota and reduce the amount of options for rural Minnesota and small towns around the state. A few years ago, senate republicans supported the re-insurance program that helped reduce the severely increasing individual rates seen in prior years. We need to continue to encourage competition in the insurance industry, which in turn will start to reduce health insurance rates.
Police reform has become center stage since the George Floyd death and prompted passage of legislation during the special session. Did the laws go far enough or too far?
RS: We like quick fixes. This is take more than a few laws concocted in the heat of the moment. Entire communities are hurting ANDthey need to be involved in finding solutions and decision making. After all they suffer the consequences.
Let’s be clear. The Faribault, Owatonna and Waseca Police departments are not the equivalent of Minneapolis. If funding need sbto be realigned to meet the needs expressed by the community, why not? We need community policing, not a police state.
JJ: What happened in George Floyd’s death was very tragic and we need to continue to work to make sure that there is increased accountability in law enforcement. During special session we worked with the MMPOA to find language that was agreeable to all parties that will increase this accountability. I believe that overall, we have excellent law enforcement personnel in this state and especially in all areas that I represent in this area. I don’t see the issues happening locally here, as we see in the metro area. I believe the best way that police reform can be done is at the local level. Minneapolis and St. Paul city councils need to work to find ways to improve their respective police departments and restore law and order in their communities. If they don’t support their law enforcement there will be a mass exodus from Minneapolis and St. Paul.