Personal: Wife Sara, two sons Greg and Aaron.
Political experience: Minnesota House of Representatives
If elected, what is your top priority for the 2013 Legislature?
Washington is badly broken and both parties are to blame. Democrats are not working hard enough to reduce wasteful spending and Republicans are just as wasteful when they give away huge tax breaks to millionaires and billionaires. Both sides are focused on fighting rather than finding solutions.
We need an independent voice in Congress who can cut through the political bickering and get the job done. I'll be the independent voice that this district needs and deserves — setting responsible priorities, cutting wasteful spending and strengthening the middle class. Frankly, if we want to change the way Washington works, we have to change the kind of people we send there.
Federal health care reform has been affirmed by the U.S. Supreme Court. Should the law stand in its current form, or should it be changed?
I don't like everything in the Affordable Care Act, especially the individual mandate. However, Congress has wasted way too much time and effort on meaningless, politically motivated votes to repeal it.
John Kline has voted more than 30 times to repeal all or parts of this law. He's voted to make current seniors pay more for prescription drugs, kick kids off their parents' insurance and make it harder for children and adults with preexisting conditions to get coverage. These kinds of votes hurt the middle class.
We should be focused on (1) controlling the cost of health care by reducing fraud and waste in Medicare and Medicaid, (2) implementing needed payment reforms that incentivize best practices and keep people healthy and (3) protecting current and future seniors from cuts to preventative care benefits and the rising cost of prescription drugs.
What role should the federal government play in ensuring that U.S. graduates can compete in the global economy?
Education is the key to building and sustaining a strong middle class. To compete in a 21st century economy, we need a 21st century work force. We should set high standards and expectations at the federal level to ensure that we have world class schools with world class teachers and principals. However, we need to untie the hands of our teachers so they can help each child reach his or her full potential rather than being forced to “teach to a test.” This means repealing the NCLB law.
Despite agreeing that NCLB should go, and being the chair of the House education committee, John Kline has failed to move a single piece of bipartisan legislation out of his committee to address this issue.
If we train and empower teachers and engage parents in their child's education we can ensure that every child learns the skills necessary to be innovative, creative and entrepreneurial. Ensuring that every child leaves high school ready for work or ready for college will strengthen the middle class and give our children the best chance to compete.
The federal government also has an important role to play in making sure college is affordable. We need to maintain a system of federal grants and low interest loans so that more students, not fewer, can attend college and gain the skills needed to compete in the global economy.
Social Security/Medicare: Should these entitlement programs be left status quo, or should be they scrutinized for budget cuts?
Social Security and Medicare are promises that we've made to our seniors and to ourselves. We should work to protect Medicare's guaranteed benefit in for future generations, not turn it into a risky voucher system as John Kline has proposed.
We also need to protect our Medicare program for current seniors. John Kline voted twice on the House floor to make prescription drugs more expensive for 7,300 seniors in the 2nd Congressional District. His plan would make seniors in this district pay $67 million more for prescription drugs over the next decade and would eliminate new preventative care benefits for approximately 75,000 2nd District seniors.
However, we can and must control the cost of Medicare. We need to root out the tens of billions of dollars in waste and fraud that happens in Medicare and Medicaid each year. We need to look seriously at the payment model, so we incentivize best practices that control costs while improving quality and outcomes. We need to make Medicare and Social Security a top priority and stop raiding the funds to pay for other spending. By controlling costs, increasing efficiencies and stamping out fraud and waste, we can save Medicare and Social Security for all future generations.
The national economy remains sluggish. What steps do you support to stimulate the growth of jobs?
We will only stimulate sustainable job growth by strengthening the middle class. The top down approach advocated by Congressman Kline won't work because businesses don't hire workers in response to tax breaks, they hire workers in response to demand for their products or services. When we have a strong middle class making family sustaining wages, we will see strong job growth again.
To build a stronger middle class, we need to protect Medicare and Social Security from those who want to end or privatize these middle class programs. We need to retrain workers and get them back into the workplace quickly to fill the many open position that do exist. For longer-term growth, we need to ensure we have world-class schools and world-class teachers so our kids learn the skills they need to thrive and succeed in a 21st century economy. We need to make sure college is affordable and that students have access to student loan programs that give them a shot at achieving the American dream.
Should changes be made to current agriculture subsidies?
The direct payment subsidy that exists in current law has long outlived its purpose and it needs to come to an end. There is a farm bill that passed the Senate and a House committee with broad bipartisan support. This bill ends the direct payment program, gives farmers the security they need with sustainable insurance programs and helps farmers and ranchers plan for the future.
I learned growing up on my parent's farm that you have to get your work done before you go on vacation. We need a Congress with a better work ethic, not one that heads out on a taxpayer-funded vacation with important work like the farm bill undone.