NEW ULM - The November general election is a little over two months away and the Minnesota House of Representatives District 16B seat will be on the ballot. Republican incumbent Paul Torkelson is seeking re-election against DFL challenger James Kanne. The candidates are answering questions on the top issues facing Minnesota.
Neither candidate was impressed with the recent rollout of MNsure, Minnesota's version of the Affordable Care Act.
Kanne characterized the problems as a "software issue" rather than a policy issue. "Software can be fixed," said Kanne. The DFLer is against returning to the old system in which rates were increasing and many were uninsured. Kanne said that he had personally benefitted from the Affordable Care Act. He can now get insurance despite a pre-existing condition. This is a benefit for his family as well because it is in their best interest that he no incur major medical bills that could effect their future. Kanne said MNsure is not perfect, but it can be made better. "Let's not throw the baby out with the bath water," he said.
Torkelson said that unless something changes on the federal level Minnesota would need to comply with the ACA. Citing the amount of money already spent on the project, Torkelson believed it was not in the state's best interest to throw out the plan, but he wanted to find ways to improve it.
"Students have to come first," Torkelson said. Suggestions for improvement included less testing and more teaching. As a former educator, Torkelson did not believe more testing would necessarily benefit students. Torkelson believes that for testing to work, teachers need greater feedback and believed technology could be incorporated to create a more effective educational process.
Kanne wants to ensure funding for schools is never delayed again, saying education is one of the state's primary responsibilities and the state should not be borrowing from the schools. He is also suggesting extending high school to six years instead of four, citing a growing need for further education. The six-year model could expand high school to allow more tech-based opportunities, to allow students to graduate with an associate's degree. On the college level Kanne hopes to prevent any further rise in tuition payment for students. Kanne said that tax cuts in past sessions ultimately transferred an extra burden to college students trying to make tuition payments.
Torkelson, who farms in Watonwan County and lives in Lake Hanska Township, was elected to the House in 2008. He currently serves as assistant minority leader for the Republican caucus and lead representative on the property tax committee.
Kanne, a dairy farmer from Franklin, has a strong interest in where Minnesota is going and believes a firm goal is needed. He previously ran for the House against Torkelson in 2012 and was defeated.