Mary Kiffmeyer, MN Senate 30

Mary Kiffmeyer


Age: 65

Family: Married to Ralph for 44 years. We have 4 children and 14 grandchildren. I am the oldest of 14 children and grew up in Pierz, MN. We have lived in Big Lake for 32 years.

Occupation: Registered Nurse and small business owner.

Previous civic and community involvement: YMCA Board Member Mpls/Elk River , Chair Community Education Advisory Council in Big Lake, Chair of the Sherburne History Center Capital Campaign, Cradle of Hope board, Red Cross volunteer, Sunday School Teacher

1. Why are you running for office?

To work on equity in education funding, increased transportation for our corridor highways 10 and I-94 and pro-job growth policies. As a legislator, I was able to make progress on equity in education funding and transportation but much remains to be done. I voted to end the State General Property tax on businesses and will work on it again.

2. Current state budget projections, when inflation is factored in, foresee an upcoming state budget deficit. If a deficit occurs, should that be remedied solely through budget cuts? If not, what revenue generators would you support?

I support balancing the budget without going to the taxpayers who are already hurting and asking them to pay more in taxes or fees. Reforming how the government does the work saved the taxpayers $5.2 billion in the last budget cycle and there is more to do. The families in my district worked with less in their budget and expect government to do the same.

3. Do you favor expanding Northstar Commuter Rail to St. Cloud, assuming ridership improves? Was the decision to establish a commuter rail line in the transportation corridor a good decision or bad one?

No. The most important transportation issue to my district is roads, roads and more roads and its related infrastructure such as the largest manufacturing rail spur between Seattle and Chicago located in Big Lake that would lead to over 1,000 good paying manufacturing jobs. We could have built 4 lane roads by now with the same money spent on light rail.

4. In general, are public schools adequately funded in Minnesota? If not, where should additional money come from?

The major issue for my school districts is the inequity in the current formula which if changed would help fund our local schools to a higher level without raising new revenue. While the recent budget changed the formula to the benefit of Elk River and Big Lake, our districts still get nearly 60% of what the metro schools get and that has to change.

5. Do you support so-called Last In, First Out (LIFO) legislation that could allow school boards to call back a laid-off teacher with less seniority over another with more, if the teacher is deemed a more skillful teacher?

I do support and voted for the Last in, First Out (LIFO) legislation that allows school boards to consider other factors such as quality of teaching, results in teaching, student test scores and teacher skills instead of using only union seniority.

6. Do you support passage of the two proposed constitutional amendments, Photo ID and the same-sex marriage ban, currently on the ballot?

I voted for and support passage of both the Photo ID and Marriage Amendments. Photo ID increases integrity in elections and encourages public confidence in the process and outcome without taking away any method of voting. There has not been one single documented case of voter disenfranchisement in any court.

7. Can lawmakers do anything to help improve the state’s economy?

Not burdening the job-creators with more taxes, fees and regulations helps. Removing the state general property tax on commercial/industrial businesses helps our state to be competitive in the market place. Removing wasteful mandates from the business process such as we did with permitting this last session is a good start.

8. If you could sign three laws into effect today, what would they be?

A law to end the Commercial/Industrial State General Property Tax. A law to have all students funded equally from state general funds. A law to expand Hwy 10 and I-94 roads to meet the needs of our growing area and facilitate business and tourist trafffic.

9. What legislation would you support to reduce the number of abortions?

Legislation making sure that women know that the unborn child is a separate individual person distinct from either parent. Legislation that encourages adoption as a valid choice since so many qualified couples are on the waiting list for adoptions.

10. The Elk River Area School District is seeking an operating levy renewal and an additional levy to in part provide for all day, every day kindergarten. Is that appropriate, or should the state provide the funding for this endeavor.

The taxpayers of the Elk River School District should decide if the levies are needed and necessary or appropriate for their families. The state should move to equity in how current state funds are distributed so all students are treated equally which would provide better funding for our local students.

11. What energy policies are needed in the state of Minnesota?

The lifting of the nuclear power plant moratorium so we have environmentally sound and safe base-load electric power is needed. The expanded use of clean coal and opening our energy pipeline with North Dakota will also support critical energy for businesses and homes. I support the Keystone Pipeline.

12. What changes in health care reform would you push if elected?

Obamacare needs to be repealed and common sense reforms such as purchasing across state lines, health care savings accounts and block granting of federal money directly to the states without mandates which would save money and give better coverage.

Elk River Area Chamber of Commerce Questions

Would you describe yourself as “Pro-Business” and if yes, what makes you Pro-Business?

Yes, I am pro-business. As a legislator I voted for and supported pro-business policies such as the removal of mandates, streamlined permitting and stood up to job-killing tax increases. I have the NFIB endorsement and received the 2012 Guardian of Small Business award for my support of small businesses that are the key to our economy turning around. I also support, voted for and will continue to work for the elimination of the state general property tax on commercial/industrial businesses that the governor vetoed.

What proposal do you have to ensure effective teachers in every classroom in the State of Minnesota?

Meaningful teacher evaluations based on a mixture of student performance, peer reviews and management standards help retain and encourage good teachers to stay or come into the educational system. Teacher educational systems should have high standards for graduation and not leave it to the local school to filter out the ineffective teachers. Empower local school boards to hire the best and keep the best teachers.

What policy changes would you support in higher education that will lead to an emphasis in producing people ready for work in the jobs available while also closing the skills gap?

Higher quality teacher preparation and graduation standards. A higher quality teacher results in higher student performance. In addition, businesses can improve technical skills but educational systems of K-12 and Higher Education need to emplasize basic work skills and dependable productivity through the shift. Students should be encouraged to make full choices for their future careers that include vocational/technical schools with good paying jobs, not just 4 year liberal arts degrees.

What changes to the state’s property tax system do you believe are necessary to improve its competitiveness, understandability and administration?

The state General Property tax on commercial/industrial businesses needs to end…not try to tinker with it. Its purpose is over and with the cost-of-living increases on auto pilot, this tax is crushing the expansion or creation of jobs. As a House member, I voted to end this tax that had broad bi-partisan support. Sadly the governor vetoed the bill.

Should energy rates be set to reflect the actual costs of serving a group of customers in a specific class instead of having one class of customers subsidize another?

Energy rates should be set to reflect the actual costs. Those who use more energy already pay more. Penalizing them for the increased needs of their business can result in job losses.

Is funding for Highway 10 improvements a priority? Why or why not?

Highway 10 improvements are a priority. Since this highway goes through the heart of both Elk River and Big Lake, it is an important business corridor not only locally, but for the north and west business and tourist traffic. In addition the design of the state transportation plan needs to have strong support and input from the public and local elected officials who are directly affected by this highway. I have been active in communicating with Commissioner Sorel, Dept of Transportation, the needs of this district.