Anderson, Gazelka explain priorities for session

Minnesota lawmakers reconvened in St. Paul on Feb. 25 and are constitutionally obligated to adjourn by May 19. But what will they do in the meantime?...

Rep. Mark Anderson (R-Lake Shore)
Rep. Mark Anderson (R-Lake Shore)

Minnesota lawmakers reconvened in St. Paul on Feb. 25 and are constitutionally obligated to adjourn by May 19. But what will they do in the meantime?

During the first few weeks of the 2014 legislative session, the Pioneer Journal caught up with Wadena's legislators, Rep. Mark Anderson (R-Lake Shore) and Sen. Paul Gazelka (R-Nisswa), to see what they'd like to see happen at the Capitol this year.


DFL Gov. Mark Dayton supports using half of the state's $1.2 billion surplus for tax cuts, including $300 million in income tax cuts for middle class Minnesotans by aligning the state tax code with the federal government. He's also aiming to repeal the three business-to-business sales taxes - on equipment repairs, telecommunications equipment purchases and warehouse services - that he signed last year.

Anderson said strongly supports repeal of these job-killing taxes that never should have passed in the first place.


"I'm pretty sure the business taxes will be repealed," he said.

Gazelka said he's glad tax cuts are on the table. "It's rare you have a second opportunity to get things right."

The business-to-business taxes hit small firms and farmers the hardest, he said.

The warehouse tax, Gazelka said, has already led to a 10 percent loss of jobs in that sector and the rest of the jobs will leave if the tax isn't repealed.

Bonding bill

This year, lawmakers received $3 billion worth of requests for the biennial bonding bill, which authorizes borrowing for construction projects.

Anderson and Gazelka said they expect less than one-third of them to be ultimately approved.

The Minnesota State Colleges and Universities System has requested money for improvements at M State Wadena ($1.1 million for an electrical service upgrade and boiler replacement) and Central Lakes College Staples ($1.5 million for a mass notification system, electrical panel upgrade, boiler room remodeling and an air handler unit upgrade).


"I think those are worthy causes that should be funded," Anderson said.

Gazelka said the proposals have a good chance of making it into the final bill.

"I'm advocating for those projects," he said.


Anderson is making repealing MNsure - the state health insurance exchange that launched in October - a top priority.

"We have a federal program that does the exact same thing," Anderson said. "Why do we need a redundant state program? Why are we spending money on the exact same thing?"

He said Minnesota had a model state health insurance system in place "until we got thrown into Obamacare."

Dayton has said he'd like to see 2014 be an "unsession" in which unnecessary laws are wiped from the books.


"In the spirit of the governor's unsession, I have the ultimate unsession bill," said Anderson, who is drafting a MNsure repeal.

Gazelka said he's going to work on improving MNsure this session.

"It's not running well," he said. "My hope is we can take a second crack at it. If we're going to have to have it let's make it the best it can be and hopefully by doing that we can help drive the costs down."

He said he also wants to add health insurance experts and doctors to the MNsure board. "That would be a smart step."

As long as the DFL is in control of the legislature and governor's office, Gazelka said, MNsure won't be repealed. "I would support (repeal) but in the meantime I'm going to do everything I can to make it better."

Minimum wage

Earlier this month, House and Senate negotiators agreed to raise the state minimum wage from $6.15 to $9.50 an hour, all but assuring final passage.

Anderson said wage scales should be left to the free market. "To me, it's the ultimate in government overreach and the ultimate in unfunded mandates."


A higher wage will put people out of work, Anderson said.

At most, he said, the legislature should increase the wage to the federal standard of $7.25 an hour.

Gazelka said he would also support that level.

Raising the minimum wage, he said, "hurts most of rural Minnesota."

Medical marijuana

Facing stiff opposition from law enforcement groups and prosecutors - not to mention a skeptical governor - a bill legalizing medical marijuana in Minnesota has stalled in the legislature.

That's just fine with Anderson and Gazelka.

Anderson noted there is already a legal prescription drug that includes the same active ingredient as pot.


"If there is already a medicine out there that will basically do the same thing, then isn't smoking marijuana a moot point?"

The medical marijuana debate is really a veiled effort to legalize recreational weed, Gazelka said. "It just creates all sorts of problems for our police."

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