If elected, what is your top priority for the 2021 Legislature? Why are you running for office?

Todd Lippert: My top legislative priority is passing a 100% clean energy goal by 2050 for Minnesota.

Expanding MinnesotaCare is a close second, but I’ll say more about that below. Climate action is a key reason I ran for office. I have three children, and I worry about the future we are giving them. College students tell me climate is their top issue. They know their future is at stake.

More farmers are talking about climate change too. One farmer said to me recently, “farmers are where the rubber meets the road when it comes to climate change. The extreme rains just pound the soil.” Many farmers are experimenting with soil health practices that protect the soil and are good for the climate.

Responding to climate change will take many policies, but a goal for 100% clean energy by 2050 is one big step we can take to reduce carbon emissions in Minnesota.

Joe Moravchik: The biggest problems with government are ineffectual leadership and incivility. There is awful rhetoric, hyper-partisanship, mistrust, and this creates an environment where working together to solve problems even with shared interests is problematic. My priority is to solve problems.

My experiences in police work, coaching, teaching, volunteering and law have been guided by integrity, compassion, courage, perseverance, a strong work ethic, always with the goal of putting people in the best position to succeed.

I have worked with wide-ranging groups of people in our society, establishing myself as a leader, creating solutions to improve outcomes.

My objective as a representative is to be effective in an important job, not self-important, trustworthy, a good listener, thoroughly prepared, an articulate voice of reason, a problem solver. I want to be a representative that can be counted on to develop courses of action that put Minnesotans in the best position to succeed.

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?

TL: We need to continue investments in the future of our children and our schools while protecting seniors, people with disabilities, and the most vulnerable in our state.

I want to take a careful look at spending throughout state government. For me, this careful look at spending extends to the tax code. The Trump tax cuts and state conformity lightened the tax burden on the wealthiest and most powerful corporations in a big way. That’s spending too.

In the face of extreme income inequality, more states are looking to raise taxes on the top 1%.

Raising the tax rate to 14% for the top 1% of earners in Minnesota would generate roughly 2 billion dollars in revenue for the state over the biennium. So many Minnesotans have had to sacrifice so much due to COVID-19. We can ask the wealthiest and largest corporations in Minnesota to pitch in a little more.

JM: Minnesota was in a good place financially until the pandemic hit. Instead of a surplus we’ll have a deficit to overcome because of sales, corporate and income tax shortfalls, and spending to counteract the pandemic.

But this is not the time to raise taxes and fees. There are families and companies that have weathered the storm just fine. Even so, many families and companies have not. Whole industries are in jeopardy, businesses have had to close often for good, and lots of people have had work hours scaled back or lost their jobs entirely.

This is a time for both parties in government to put differences aside and work together, fund critical spending like education, public safety, and senior care, and thoroughly look at the budget to reduce spending. Additionally, the State has a Rainy Day fund with over $2 billion in it. It’s raining, time to use it.

Education, K-12: 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?

TL: High speed broadband for every household is a clear need. Before COVID there were students in our district who needed to get a ride into town to find high speed internet to do their homework. With distance learning, the need is even greater. Federal CARES Act funding allows some districts to provide hotspots, but high speed internet should be seen as a utility and delivery prioritized to all households.

Before COVID we also had major disparities in educational outcomes by race and income. Now, with distance learning, so many families are trying to figure out how to balance going to work, providing child care, and supporting learning at home. This puts even more pressure on low income families.

It is too early to draw statewide policy conclusions for schools. Right now our focus must be on supporting schools, families, and students to make the best of an extremely difficult situation.

JM: I think what distance learning has showed us is how valuable in person instruction is for most students, and a computer screen is no substitute. I know from my experience as a teacher and coach, and from my observations and involvement in our daughters’ education, that there are exceptional teachers, completely dedicated to the betterment of their students, and that in person instruction, shared learning, and camaraderie between teachers and students, and students and their classmates, has been dearly missed.

Education and the entire student experience – in class instruction, athletics, the arts, music, clubs, special education programs – are to be appreciated and valued.

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?

TL: Expanding MinnesotaCare to create a MinnesotaCare buy-in program is a top priority of mine. This will be good for farmers, small business owners, and anyone who doesn’t have access to high quality, affordable, health insurance.

I regularly have conversations with constituents who make a little too much money to qualify for MinnesotaCare, and then they don’t have access to quality, affordable health insurance options.

I recently spoke with one mom who explained that her family doesn’t have insurance because the option available to her had an $1800 monthly premium with a $12,000 deductible. That’s $30,000 out of pocket annually before any benefit is received. How is that affordable for anyone?

With the expansion of MinnesotaCare, this family would be able to buy-in to MinnesotaCare, at a reasonable price, with a reasonable deductible, and have access to insurance that is really insurance.

JM: Before the issues of the pandemic and public safety came to light, healthcare was a primary issue people wanted to discuss, and for good reason. While there is continuing gridlock in government about healthcare reform, premiums are up, deductibles are up, and rising medical and prescription drug costs are cutting into families’ necessary expenditures, discretionary spending and savings.

We all want quality, affordable healthcare. I think we can agree that every American should be able to see a doctor when they need to and pre-existing conditions should be covered. Further, medical research and innovations to improve lives needs to be supported.

Although Medicaid to support our poorest citizens and the disabled has its place, shutting down private healthcare and instituting a complete government run healthcare program for everyone is not viable. It is free market competition that often provides the best quality and price for consumers.

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? Should the Legislature take additional measures?

TL: The Police Reform and Accountability Act passed this summer provides a good first step in ensuring that everyone, regardless of race, feels safe in their community.

This law provides more training for calls involving mental health and autism, and it offers support for the trauma officers experience in their difficult work. At the urging of police chiefs, the law also reforms the licensure board and arbitration process so that an officer fired due to excessive use of force doesn’t get his or her job back.

Police reform conversations will continue. Since local law enforcement identifies mental health calls as a top concern, I’d like to see funding for experimental approaches to mental health response. Departments that provide some officers with extensive mental health response training have seen success. Those trained officers respond to mental health related calls, and they respond quite differently. This is an idea worth exploring.

JM: First, this idea by the Minneapolis City Council, supported by some of our state and national representatives, to defund and dismantle the police is misguided. Further, it has done great harm to police service, community-police relations, and undermined how truly important the police are especially in neighborhoods that experience high violent crime.

Second, central to our society is that we have security in our homes, our neighborhoods, our schools, and our business districts. The police are foundational to this principle.

Finally, I do believe in police reform. I believed it when I was an award-winning police officer for one of the Midwest’s most violent cities. I think we need our police to be better than they ever have been. Ultimately, it will be improved recruiting, education, and training of ethical police officers that believe that the badge symbolizes community faith and trust that will renew that necessary police-community parnership.

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