NEW ULM - With the primary elections over voters are looking ahead to the November General Election.
Minnesota House of Representatives District 16B is up for election this year. In a repeat of 2012, Rep. incumbent Paul Torkelson is defending his seat against DFL challenger James Kanne. During the primary, both candidates ran unopposed. As the campaign heats up the two candidates are answering questions on the top issues facing Minnesota.
Both candidates believe Minnesota's transportation issues are of major concern. Kanne said that transportation was possible the most important issue facing the State in the coming years, saying road infrastructure has been on the back burner for 20 years and as a legislator he would not dodge the issue. Kanne is in favor of adopting a Wholesale Fuel tax to cover infrastructure cost, believing the 10 to 20 cent increase to fuel could make a huge difference. Kanne also suggested an increase property taxes on out of state landowners. Kanne reasons roads are being used by out of state landowners, but they are not paying for improvements. "Out in rural areas we have people owning land that are from out of State. Too much revenue is leaving the state."
Torkelson said legislators needed to find a new way to pursue funding and is optimistic about future efforts, saying "many are recognizing the need to look into this problem."
Torkelson was less optimistic about the Wholesale Fuel Tax. Torkelson believed that as vehicles continue to become more efficient and electric cars become more popular, a fuel tax will not generate sufficient funds in the future.
"Anything we do needs to reflect changes," said Torkelson. Torkelson suggested on a temporary basis the State could look to using bonding to pay for transportation, but also believes legislators need to be more efficient with available funds by focusing on roads and bridges rather than transit.
Overall, the two candidates felt Minnesota's current budget was in stable condition, but would take different approaches to maintain it.
Kanne felt the last legislative session created a more progressive tax structure that increased Minnesota's revenue.
"Property tax went down on average across the state. We want the average to continue to go down." Kanne specifically wanted to prevent rises in taxes for long-term homesteaders.
"Though their land value has gone up, [homestead] salary has not increased." Kanne takes a cautious approach to cutting taxes on government programs as this would increase the cost for services the government had previously covered.
Torkelson was pleased the state had a balanced budget with a surplus. "If we are careful, we can reduce taxes." Torkelson specifically wants to reduce the Statewide Business taxes to allow Minnesota to better compete with surrounding Midwestern States.
Torkelson was first elected to the House in 2008. Torkelson currently serves as Assistant Minority Leader and lead Representative on the Property Tax Committee.
Kanne is a dairy farmer from Franklin, and has stated he has strong interest in where the State is going and believes a firm goal is needed.
Kanne previously ran for House Seat 16B against Torkelson in 2012.