House District 15B – Tom Kuster
Explain why either a) all abortions should be banned, or b) why exception(s) should be made, or c) the decision should be left to the woman.
Here is the right question to ask: how do we make abortion as infrequent as possible? That’s our common goal. Option a), banning all abortions, is unrealistic for many reasons, among them these: it will not stop all abortions, the risks of pregnancy for all women will increase, and the heartbreak of every miscarriage will be multiplied by the threat of litigation. We can reduce the number of abortions by supplying a wide array of support for ALL pregnancies with policies like these: fact-based sex education, family planning, family leave, day care, affordable job training, livable wages, anti-poverty programs, foster care and adoption services, legal services to hold fathers responsible, and the full range of available medical services for women. Still, important as this issue is, it won’t mean much if in 2025 we don’t have a democracy any more.
What are the most effective actions the state Legislature can take to benefit the state’s agriculture industry, particularly farmers and smaller producers?
Our communities prosper when farmers have fair and competitive markets, and every effort must be made to assure that is the case. Minnesota’s current Attorney General Keith Ellison is leading one thrust in that direction, using anti-trust laws to curb the consolidation of sellers and buyers that squeeze farmers. We must protect and extend risk management not only for field crops but for livestock and birds, and smooth the bottlenecks in supplies and marketing – the pandemic revealed serious problems, among them with meat processing. Industries that make record profits during inflation by price-gouging should be investigated – gas and fertilizer prices are good candidates. Then consider the cost of health care and insurance. There is a long list of issues, not getting the urgent attention they deserve now, that require effective advocacy for farmers. However, important as all these issues are, it won’t mean much if in 2025 we don’t have a democracy any more.
What can be done to provide more state support for essential rural services like mental health treatment, medical rescue and attracting more physicians and allied health care workers?
Let’s just do it – “provide more state support for essential rural services like mental health treatment, medical rescue and attracting more physicians and allied health care workers.” In the short run, promote the benefits of living in our region, to attract the workers we need, and make sure their salaries are competitive. The budget bill that the Republicans left on the table last spring contained one billion for health and human services including funding for school mental health programs, long-term care facilities, group homes, disability services, and personal care attendants. That money is still there, unused. In the longer term, encourage more young people to seek caring careers with imaginative programs and incentives in high schools and colleges. Still, important as all these issues are, it won’t mean much if in 2025 we don’t have a democracy any more.
4. What should the state do with its current budget surplus that would provide the most benefit for the most state residents?
Legislative leaders and Governor Walz had reached a deal for the budget surplus that best served the interests of most Minnesotans: dividing it into three parts, one for projects, one for tax relief, and one for rebuilding the rainy day fund for future needs. When the Republicans backed off this deal, the following is what they kept from you. The projects portion included support for communities to fight crime (isn’t crime a big Republican issue? Shouldn’t cities have this money now?), school special ed and mental health programs (don’t we need these things THIS school year?), health and human services money benefitting long-term-care facilities (two of these have closed in our area this year), group homes, disability services, personal care attendants, local jobs and projects (aren’t we concerned about inflation that will make these more costly next year?), and matching funds to get federal infrastructure money that we need now. The tax portion included state tax cuts on social security and rebate checks to put cash into your pocket. The Republicans have kept from us all these things we need now. However, important as all these issues are, it won’t mean much if in 2025 we don’t have a democracy any more.
Rural Minnesota communities have an acute shortage of day care workers and in the local workforce generally, which is adversely impacting rural economies. What can be done to effectively address this issue?
Worker shortages have become a serious brake on our needed economic development. Difficulties finding affordable day care have made it hard for parents, especially women, to re-enter the workforce after the pandemic. Worker shortages hamper elder care, farm production, law enforcement, and emergency services. We have shortages of teachers and aids, and social workers. Help wanted signs are everywhere. The problem is broad, and so must solutions be. We can attract the workers we need by promoting the benefits of moving to and living in our communities. Let’s sell our wonderful quality of life! Make sure salaries are competitive, provide needed infrastructure like housing, broadband, and day care. That might encourage students in high schools and colleges to stay home or, later, to come back home. Support the wonderful citizen groups in each of our communities that are working on local economic development. Finally, on the national level, let’s fix our immigration system, and on the local level, let’s welcome immigrants and newcomers. However, important as all these issues are, it won’t mean much if in 2025 we don’t have a democracy any more.
6. What else you would like to tell voters regarding this election and the position?
I’m offering myself, my experience and skill as an advocate, to you and am eager to put them to work to help make your life better. That’s what I believe government is for. However, important as all these issues are, it won’t mean much if in 2025 we don’t have a democracy any more, and that is what is at stake in this election and the next one. The Republican Party of your father no longer exists. It has been remade by people who realize they can’t win elections with their ideas, so they try to seize and keep power by voter suppression, gerrymandering, and changing election laws so that the will of voters can be ignored. In places they are in power, they deny medical care to women and young people, ban books, drive good teachers out of schools. If they regain power in Washington, government focused on public service will disappear. Gone will be the infrastructure funding, the cheaper drugs and insulin prices, the fair tax on international corporations, the decreasing national deficit, the plans to eliminate hunger, the steps to tackle climate change, the unified NATO support for the defenders of democracy in Ukraine, and all the other Biden administration achievements. They will be replaced by crusades to punish opponents, efforts to consolidate power, and moves toward authoritarianism, even condoning the use of violence to keep political power. This is not partisan exaggeration; they are already doing it in states and are promising it in Washington. If these Republican efforts are not repulsed, there is indeed a good chance we won’t have a democracy in 2025. That’s a powerful reason, at least this year, to vote for a reasonable Democrat.