State Senate District 47 – Q and A

1) Why do you want to serve as State Senator for District 47? (100 words)
Julianne Ortman: At the Capitol I have worked to become a voice of both reason and principle. I earned my position as Tax Committee Chair, authored key legislative changes: balancing the state’s $6.2 Billion deficit without raising taxes, estate tax relief for family-owned farms and businesses; sales tax exemption for Townships, tax credits encouraging economic investment, and funding for roads (Highways 212, 5, 7, and 101 Bridge).
I hope to return to downsize government in favor of individuals, families and businesses. We can cut the state’s budget, reform entitlements, eliminate overlapping programs and agencies, and take back control of the Met Council.
James F. Weygand: I am running for the Senate because I believe our current legislature and Senator are unwilling to make the investments needed in our education system and infrastructure. They are also too willing to provide and maintain income tax breaks for our wealthiest residents, which has shifted more of the tax burden from income taxes to property taxes. Minnesota has had a strong economy and been a leader in quality of life because we have been willing to invest in our people, our youth, and our state. The current legislature is failing to continue those investments.

2) What areas of the state budget need to be cut? Are there any areas that need additional funding? In what cases would you support a tax increase? How can the state avoid another stalemate when it comes to passing the next budget? (250 words)
Ortman: State Budget Cuts: We must pass entitlement reform, encourage personal responsibility, and significantly reduce our Health and Human Services Budget. Significant cuts can be made in eliminating the duplication of services at multiple agencies and levels of government.
Taxes: There’s no reason to raise taxes; the 2011 Legislature’s fiscal discipline erased a $5.2 billion deficit; we have a substantial surplus which should be re-invested to pay back schools and encourage business investment. Rather, we should reduce taxes to allow Minnesotans to keep more of their hard-earned income (they invest it more wisely than government), improve Minnesota’s economic competitiveness. We should comprehensively reform our erratic Sales Tax Code and overly-complicated property taxes, especially DFL-engineered subsidies and wealth redistribution programs (e.g., LGA, fiscal disparities) and funding mechanisms for public schools.
Transportation: Our Transportation funds should be re-directed; the Legislature, and not the Met Council should have oversight of all transportation investments and operating budgets. We should hold MnDOT accountable to build roads and bridges to meet current needs and future growth. I am working to secure the federal 212 funds recently diverted; I’ll continue to oppose light rail, and empty subsidized Metro buses, in favor of roads and the private opt-out buses.
Stalemate?: Raising taxes in a Recession is the absolute worst strategy for recovery; higher taxes impose more burdens on families and businesses, discouraging saving and investment. This is no time to raise taxes, even if DFL Governor Dayton insists; voters can count on a Republican-led Senate to disagree.
Weygand: We make a mistake starting out with what areas need to be cut. We need to address what we want to accomplish, how best to do that, what will it cost, and what are we willing to pay. Today we are more interested in cuts rather than where investment is needed.
We should be looking at ways of doing things better.  Health and Human Services, more than a third of our budget, would be one area to address. We need to look more at the outcomes we want to achieve rather than keeping spending down. If we work to provide good education for the poor and minorities, they will contribute more in the future to our society and economy.  We need to look at future savings in health care because of the Affordable Care Act. We need to look at caring for seniors at home rather than in nursing facilities.
We need additional investment in K-12 and higher education to give us a top quality work force in the future. We need more investment in infrastructure particularly transportation to create jobs today and bring future businesses to the state. I would support tax increases to meet these needs, and improve the competitiveness of our state.
We need to elect a legislature that will work together to consider all options for solutions to our problems. Members of the legislature, like my opponent, who have signed the No New Taxes Pledge, have already removed half the options to solve fiscal issues.

3) What ideas do you have to help promote business and job growth in Minnesota? (250 words)
Ortman: Encouraging economic growth and fiscal discipline must be our highest priorities for 2013— including spending reductions and tax cuts:
Government should set priorities for spending, distinguish needs from wants, and combine overlapping agencies (e.g. water planning is managed at federal, state, county, metropolitan and city levels, and oftentimes by more than one agency), which makes permitting difficult for businesses and asks taxpayers to fund duplicative services.
Eliminate State business property taxes (businesses already pay property taxes for schools, cities, counties); the State should not be in the business of raising and spending property taxes.
Eliminate the up-front capital equipment exemption requiring businesses to pay sales tax at the time of purchase and seek a refund, taking as much as 18 months (eliminating this tax will encourage manufacturing and business investment).
Reform Sales Taxes. The sales tax code has so many erratic applications, definitions and exemptions that it lacks coherency. We should redefine the transactions we intend to tax in light of changes in our state’s economy in the past 4 decades, and lower rates, to make Minnesota more competitive nationally.
Reconsider Property Tax Aids & Credits paid by the State to certain communities (LGA and Fiscal Disparities) and payment formulas, and review the definition of Tax Exempt for purposes of property taxes.
Work with County, City and Economic Development Authorities, and State Agencies to encourage new business and expansion here in Carver County, and assist in securing infrastructure and resources to accommodate growth.
Weygand: We have to look at what businesses need and want. They need a quality, educated work force. They need infrastructure such as transportation, communication (high speed internet), energy, etc. They need a good regulatory environment not little regulation, but regulation that tells them clearly what they can and cannot do and responds quickly and efficiently. They want good healthcare, police and fire protection. They also want a high quality of life both for themselves, and to make it easy to draw top-notch people in the future. They would like low taxes, but for most companies this is not a top priority.
Our family moved from New York in 1971 with IBM to Rochester. The reasons I listed above were why IBM moved to Minnesota and why we decided to move from our hometown to Minnesota.
If we want to attract business, we need to invest in education and infrastructure. We need K-12 to produce well-educated graduates from all our young people. We need our higher education to be quality and affordable for our youth and adults. We need the University of Minnesota to be a top quality teaching and research center. Remember continuing education is required in many high tech industries.
We need to invest in infrastructure particularly transportation. We need to maintain our roads and bridges and plan for expansion. We also have to look at rail for both moving goods and people. We also need to look at transit to reduce congestion.

4) When it comes to the proposed Marriage and Voter ID amendments, do you feel it was appropriate for these issues to be put on the ballot, or, should elected officials have been focusing on other matters? (250 words)
Ortman: When State Government fails to respond to the needs of residents, a constitutional ballot question may be the only way to hold state government accountable. The VoterID ballot question is a great example. Requiring a photo ID is common sense, popular across the State, and a reasonable standard for ensuring election integrity. In 2011, the Legislature passed a statutory plan for Voter ID; all DFL members voted no; Governor Dayton vetoed the bill. Voters were dissatisfied with this result, so we returned to St. Paul in 2012 and worked to place the question on the ballot. Still, our overly-political Secretary of State and Attorney General attempted to hijack the election through a title change. I was a party to the successful Supreme Court case challenging his actions.
I’ve proposed a Balanced Budget question for the next election, and will advance it next Legislative Session: to allow the State to spend only 98% of current sources of Revenue, determined through Budget Projections. The State would be certain to maintain a Reserve, even in a shrinking economy, creating certainty and an improved credit rating.
The legitimacy of our budget and our laws depend upon the State’s responsiveness to the concerns, values and goals of residents. The Legislature is the most direct form of representation in St. Paul, and is empowered through our Constitution to promote ballot questions to affect the will of the people. We must work relentlessly to secure “government of the people, by the people, and for the people.”
Weygand: No I do not believe either of these amendments should be on the ballot, and I plan to vote No on both. As the last legislative term began everybody agreed that the highest priority was “Jobs”, but after two years we did not get jobs just these two amendments both of which cause more harm than good. Besides being bad legislation these types of issues should be handled by laws and ordinances, and should not be cluttering our State Constitution.
The Photo ID amendment solves a non-existent problem, by making it more difficult for over 200,000 Minnesotans to vote. If we really wanted to improve the integrity of our elections, we could have worked together on a law that would actually protect integrity of our elections without adding obstacles for the poor, minorities and seniors.
The Marriage amendment rather than protecting someone’s rights is actually reduces the rights of a segment of the population. My wife and I have been married 44 years and I do not see same sex marriage would impact our belief in marriage. I do not see any decline in the integrity of marriage in Iowa. If we are worried about the integrity of marriage we should look at those couples who do not want to marry not those who do.

5) What makes you the best candidate to serve State Senate District 47? (100 words)
Ortman: I have a proven record supporting taxpayers and small businesses:
NFIB’s Guardian of Small Business 2004, 2006, 2008, 2010, 2012, (national award, 2011);
2011: Minnesota Municipal Legislative Commission Legislator of the Year, Minnesota High Tech Association’s Tekne for Public Service;
2010: Suburban Transit Association Legislator Recognition;
2012: Minnesotans for Lawsuit Reform Legislator of the Year;
Endorsed by Chamber of Commerce, MCCL and an NRA A Rating in 2002, 2006, 2010, 2012.
While awards and endorsements don’t qualify me for office, they’re a strong indication of my dedication to service, achievement, and validation of my efforts.
Weygand: To start with I have not signed any pledges that limit my actions in the legislature. Minnesota has to put its house in order and new taxes will have to be part of that process.
My experience covers 40 years in industry, 12 years in local government, participating in the community including 18 years on the Citizens Advisory on Transit in Rochester, and lifelong education. Today I am retired with no other loyalties. I am not criticizing government on one hand and working for Hennepin County on the other.

6) Please tell us about your background and/or experience. (100 words)
Ortman: I’m one of seven children and began working in our family business in 8th Grade, learning work ethic, honor and integrity from my parents, and the value of education. I’ve practiced law since 1989, successfully managed our family business (1994-2006), and worked alongside my husband for 23 years, to raise principled, faithful children, to help pay for college and achieve their goals, and to serve church and community. There simply is no shortcut in business, education, in elections or at the Capitol, credibility is earned through hard work, willingness to learn, the ability to present facts, logic and persuasion.
Weygand: We have been married 44 years and have raised two successful adult children with families of their own. We were raised in New York, but moved to Minnesota 41 years ago.
I am retired today after working 40 years as a process engineer and manager in the semiconductor industry. I spent 12 years on the City of Carver’s Council with 10 of those years as Mayor.
Army 1968 to 1970 in Maryland.
I earned a BS in Physics in 67, MS in Electrical Engineering 1981, and a MS in Management of Technology 1994 (MBA type program for technical professionals).