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United States Senate

The Minnesota Newspaper Association distributes a survey asking for responses from candidates for Congressional and Senatorial offices. These are answers from candidates as provided to the Minnesota Newspaper Association.

Kurt Bills (Republican)

If elected, what is your top priority for the 2013 Legislature? Why are you running for office?

Pass a balanced budget. The US government hasn’t passed a budget at all since April 29, 2009.

I am a high school economics teacher. For the past decade and a half, I have been teaching economics to my students at Rosemount High School. A few years ago, I started noticing how anxious they were as they watched our national debt climb and the American economy stall. One day, a student asked me, “what can we do about this?”

That is the day I decided I had to run for office. I got elected to the Rosemount City Council, then the Minnesota House of Representatives. And today, I am running for US Senate because I believe that Washington, DC is crushing the middle class.

Federal health care reform has been affirmed by the US Supreme Court. Should the law stand in its current form, or should it be changed? If you support changes, be specific.

The Supreme Court said Obamacare was legal, not that it was a good idea. I support a full repeal of the law and replacing it with measures that actually increase competition, lowers costs (not increase them as Obamacare has done), and expand coverage to people who can’t get insurance due to pre-existing conditions.

Obamacare was exactly the wrong approach, and I will fight to repeal it. Health care is too important an issue to leave it to bureaucrats.

What role should the federal government play in ensuring that US graduates can compete in the global economy?

I have been a high school economics teacher for 18 years, and still teach my first-hour economics class every morning. In my classroom, I have seen the cost of federal mandates, but not the supposed benefits the politicians keep claiming.

I walk into my classroom every morning and I see a room filled with 38 kids. The politicians can brag all they want about the “programs” they voted to improve student achievement, but the rubber meets the road in the classroom and I can tell you those programs don’t work.

The recipe for educational success is a good teacher, involved parents, and a serious curriculum set at the local school board level.

The national economy remains sluggish. What steps do you support to stimulate the growth of jobs?

If the last few years have taught us anything at all, it is that government “stimulus” doesn’t make an economy grow.

Washington policies have been crushing job growth and the middle class. As spending has gone up, our incomes have gone down by more than $4,000 a year. Everybody is poorer, has more debt to pay, lower net worth, and a house under water. That is what the policies of “stimulus” have done to us.

We need to get the economy moving again, and here is how to do that: get government spending under control by balancing the budget (passing a budget would be a good start); repeal Obamacare, which is causing small businesses to quit hiring; lower energy prices, by permitting domestic energy production as they do in North Dakota (unemployment 3 percent); and reducing regulations which strangle small businesses.

Klobuchar’s answer is more government and raising taxes on small business. That won’t work.

Should changes be made to current agriculture subsidies? Be specific.

Changes are already being made, if they would only pass a farm bill. The government is moving from a subsidy model to an insurance model, and I think that will be better for agriculture in the long run.

I also believe we need to quit helping large corporations and focus our efforts on helping small farmers. We waste billions of dollars subsidizing big business, and that has to stop.

Amy Klobuchar* (Democrat)

Top priority: If elected, what is your top priority for the 2013 Legislature? Why are you running for office?

My work as senator has been defined by one value – putting Minnesota first.

We need an economy that is built to last and that creates economic opportunity for all Americans. I have been working to advance a competitive agenda for America that promotes long-term economic growth and private sector jobs, including revitalizing America’s innovative edge, educating the next generation of American innovators, opening up new markets abroad for US producers, cutting through regulatory red tape, developing homegrown energy, and reducing our nation’s debt in a balanced way.

I will continue to work with Minnesota businesses, workers, and farmers to ensure they have the support they need to succeed.

Federal health care reform has been affirmed by the US Supreme Court. Should the law stand in its current form, or should it be changed? If you support changes, be specific.

I supported the Affordable Care Act that includes important reforms to our health care system, such as closing the “donut hole” for seniors’ prescription drugs, allowing young people to remain on their parents’ plans until age 26, and ensuring that Americans with pre-existing conditions have access to health insurance.

But, I have always said that this law is a beginning, not an end, and I believe that improvements still need to be made.

Moving forward, we can continue to work on eliminating waste and fraud, as well as focus on more reforms to our health care delivery system, so that we are rewarding high-quality, efficient care.

In addition, we should repeal the medical device tax. I opposed this tax from the beginning, and during the health-reform debate fought to reduce the original proposed tax by half.

I understand the impact this new tax would have on small and large medical device companies in Minnesota and that’s why I’m working to repeal it.

We also need to allow Medicare to directly negotiate drug prices on behalf of seniors. Allowing Medicare to negotiate drug prices, as the Veterans Administration does, would save $240 billion over the next 10 years and help lower the cost of drugs for our nation’s seniors.

What role should the federal government play in ensuring that US graduates can compete in the global economy?

By 2018, 70 percent of all jobs in Minnesota will require at least some post-secondary education, and we must do a better job of preparing students for the jobs that will be available to them when they graduate – positions that may not require a Ph.D. or even a four-year degree, but demand specialized training and experience.

This is a crucial part of advancing a competitive agenda for America. To address this, we need to first strengthen our commitment to two-year community and technical colleges, and STEM programs to ensure that our students have the education and skills they need to succeed in the 21st century workforce.

Second, I will continue to work to ensure education remains affordable for all students and families in Minnesota and across the country. America’s future economic prosperity depends on it.

Third, we need to keep working to make significant changes to No Child Left Behind, including putting in place better accountability systems, more flexibility, and targeted efforts to close the achievement gaps.

The national economy remains sluggish. What steps do you support to stimulate the growth of jobs?

We need an economy that is built to last and one that creates economic opportunity for all Americans.

I have been working to advance a competitive agenda for America that promotes long-term economic growth and private sector jobs, including revitalizing America’s innovative edge, educating the next generation of American innovators, opening up new markets abroad for US products, cutting through regulatory red tape, developing homegrown energy, and reducing our nation’s debt in a balanced way.

I will continue to work with Minnesota businesses, workers, and farmers to ensure they have the support they need to succeed.

Should changes be made to current agriculture subsidies? Be specific.

I believe the people who grow our food deserve to know their livelihoods can’t be swept away in the blink of an eye – either by market failures or natural disasters.

As a member of the Senate Agriculture Committee, I was a leader in getting the bipartisan farm bill through the Senate and worked to make sure that the bill provided a strong safety net for our farmers, while still making important payment reforms.

The Senate-passed farm bill makes $23 billion in cuts, with $16 billion in savings coming from farm programs, even though these programs only make up 14 percent of the total cost of the farm bill.

In the Senate-passed farm bill, we eliminated the direct payments and strengthened crop insurance – a program considered by many farmers across Minnesota to be the most important piece of the farm safety net to help mitigate risk.

But, we also made changes to the crop insurance program, like reducing a producer’s subsidy by 15 percent if they make over $750,000 dollars, to help focus our limited resources on family farmers.

The bill also includes payment caps for farm programs other than crop insurance, and ensures the payments are only going to farmers and ranchers actively engaged in production agriculture.

We also made changes to the dairy program to help provide a stronger safety net to dairy producers who have been hit hard in recent years.

I supported special help to dairy farmers during the worst of the price declines in 2009, and I support the new dairy reforms in the Senate-passed farm bill, like the Margin Protection Program, which would allow farmers to purchase margin insurance to help manage risk.

Stephen Williams (Independence Party)

Top priority: If elected, what is your top priority for the 2013 Legislature? Why are you running for office?

In the past six years, despite massive increases in deficit spending, total employment has declined by more than 3.7 million jobs. Something is terribly wrong on Main Street America.

To strengthen our economy, we must create jobs by removing all of the costs we impose on the American worker.

Therefore, my top priority is to encourage jobs and to promote economic and social justice by eliminating payroll taxes and providing Medicare for all.

Health care: Federal health care reform has been affirmed by the US Supreme Court. Should the law stand in its current form, or should it be changed? If you support changes, be specific.

Although there are a few good elements in this massive piece of legislation, it does not address the worst deficiencies of our healthcare system and instead, it is a gigantic giveaway to the healthcare industry.

If the government is going to provide healthcare for senior citizens, justice demands that newborn citizens are just as deserving as is every citizen in between.

We need to provide Medicare for all citizens and remove the burden of healthcare from the American worker by funding Medicare with a national sales tax. With a single-payer system, the purchasing power of the federal government can be used to bring the cost of healthcare services down.

Education: What role should the federal government play in ensuring that US graduates can compete in the global economy?

I believe a good education is priceless, but that doesn’t mean we should bankrupt ourselves to obtain one.

We have to keep in mind that education is big business, and that like any other industry, it can become very self-serving. There are educational institutions whose primary purpose is to rip off the student and the taxpayer by means of the student loan program.

What to do? The student loan program needs to be reformed to eliminate the massive fraud that the program has created. Students need to critically evaluate what their expectations are for higher education before they mortgage their future with a student loan.

We must use technology to bring the cost of education down. Many courses can be taught just as well online. I would like to establish a low-cost high quality national online university for all of the courses that can be taught electronically.

I will work to bring the cost of education down and to make higher education available to all who are willing to invest their time and effort to achieve their educational goals.

Economy: The national economy remains sluggish. What steps do you support to stimulate the growth of jobs?

The best way to stimulate jobs is to remove all of the burdens that we place on American workers and their employers.

To impose the cost of Medicare, Social Security, health insurance, and unemployment insurance on American workers is economic insanity.

An employer can avoid these very high costs by simply moving the jobs out of our country. Likewise, the American consumer can also avoid these costs by purchasing products made out of our country.

Unfortunately for the American worker, moving out of the country is not an option.

Imposing these costs on the American worker is a great injustice that is destroying American jobs. We can correct this injustice and stimulate jobs by paying for these social costs with a sales tax instead.

Agriculture: Should changes be made to current agriculture subsidies? Be specific.

The family farmer, whose image is used to promote the agenda of the agri-industry, has largely been replaced by the agri-businessman.

What was a labor-intensive small business has become a capital-intensive industry that has more in common with the financial industry than the family farmer of decades past.

Just like the financial industry, the agri-industry seeks to privatize profits and socialize losses. I object to this in any industry.

With record high prices for both farmland and farm commodities, there is more than enough money in the agri-industry, itself, to insure against losses experienced by any agri-businessman due to the current drought, without any contribution by the American taxpayer.

We must end the practice of privatizing profits and socializing losses in the agri-industry and in all industries.

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