Nick Zerwas, MN House 30A

Nick Zerwas

Website: http://www.zerwasforhouse.com

Age: 31

Family: My wife Julie and I met while we were in school at the Elk River High School, and we were married seven years ago.

Occupation: I graduated from Hamline University with a degree in Biology and certificate in Forensic Science. I worked five years at the Anoka County Sheriff’s Office in the crime lab first as an evidence technician and then as a latent print criminalist. I then took a position with Target Corporation to create a fingerprint lab in Target’s Brooklyn Park Forensic Services Lab, where we used forensics to investigate large scale thefts and high profile incidents at Target stores across the country.

I left Target in December, currently I conduct trainings for corporations and nonprofits on living each day to the fullest, and making the most of each day.

Previous civic and community involvement:

I have served on the Elk River City Council for the last six years. I have also served on the Elk River Economic Development Authority, and as a City Council Liaison to the Elk River Park and Recreation Commission, and the Elk River Library Board. I also represent Sherburne County cities on MNDOT’S Region 7W Transportation Policy Board.

I volunteer on the American Heart Association State Board of Directors, the YMCA Community Board (currently board chair), the Elk River Lions Club, the Sherburne County Area United Way, The Mercy and Unity Hospitals Foundation Board, and the Guardian Angels Fund Development Committee.

1. Why are you running for office?

I have really enjoyed serving on the Elk River City Council the last 6 years. During that time I have seen first hand the local impacts of some of the legislative decisions made in St. Paul on our communities. I want to serve in the legislature to represent our local communities, and advocate for our local small business owners. I am running to represent you.

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 strongly believe St. Paul has a significant spending problem, and not a revenue problem. Minnesota families across the state have faced years of difficulty during the economic downturn our nation has faced. During this period Minnesota families have had to make hard decisions and prioritize our spending, I believe it is time for the state to take this same approach.

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?

I don’t currently favor expanding Northstar. The ridership does not exist to justify the St. Cloud extension, and the expense would be astronomical. The capital expense for Northstar was enormous, prior to the train a very well used bus system was in place at a fraction of the cost of the train. That money would have been better spent on expanding roads in the corridor.

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

The issue our school districts face is funding equity in the State of Minnesota. The funding formula for schools is antiquated and overly confusing. However, the end result is straightforward, our schools get nearly HALF the state funding per pupil than many metro area schools. That is completely wrong, our students deserve the exact same opportunities as the peers.

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?

Yes I do. We need to provide our school boards with the flexibility to place the best educators in the classroom in order to help our students succeed.

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

I personally support both amendments. Photo ID is required to: cash a check, buy sudafed from a grocery store, or to vote in a union election; it does not seem to be an unreasonable requirement.

The marriage amendment is a personal decision for each Minnesotan, and I support preserving traditional marriage.

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

Yes! The state can help make Minnesota a more competitive environment for business, by eliminating the state general property tax on commercial and industrial property, providing small business owners some flexibility to expand their workforce. The state also needs re-evaluate many excessive state regulations that are crushing small business in Minnesota.

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

1. Eliminate the State General Property Tax for commercial and industrial properties.

2. Improve education funding equity by reworking the state’s education funding formula.\

3. Add the needed expansions to HWYs 10 and 169 to MNDOT’s transportation plan.

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

I would support legislation to ban so called “Webcam Abortions” where a doctor administers the abortion drug RU-486 remotely, while “observing” the patient over a webcam. This has been confirmed to have been performed in Rochester, MN in the last year. This practice is not safe, and not good medical practice, and I will support legislation to ban it.

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.

Clearly the Elk River Area School District is being impacted by a significant inequity in the education funding formula, that provides nearly double the funding per pupil to metro area student than students in our district. Levies were intended to fund extras, however, the district’s request is to cover basics that are not being funded due to the inequity of the formula.

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

Minnesota needs an energy policy that appropriately balances conservation with supply and affordability. We need to ensure safe and reliable energy is available to Minnesotans. My concern is around establishing a generic renewable energy standard without understanding the impact that has on the cost of energy.

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

In Minnesota we are fortunate to have one of the best healthcare systems in the nation. Our uninsured population is one of the lowest in the country, which should allow us to focus on a very specialized approach to addressing healthcare concerns in MN. I support the Minnesota Care reforms that will allow the poor to purchase insurance directly from a provider.

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 a pro-business candidate. For 6 years I have worked to push economic development within the city of Elk River, and our surrounding communities. I am honored and proud to have earned the endorsement of the MN Chamber Leadership Fund. I strongly support eliminating oppressive state regulations, and the elimination of the state general property tax.

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

Having skilled, committed, and impactful teachers in the classroom is the best thing we can do to prepare our future workforce. Ensuring the funding formula for education in Minnesota is equitable, and that our students are valued just as highly as metro students will help our schools remain competitive.

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?

This is an area we have been addressing directly in the Elk River Economic Development Authority in partnership with the Elk River Area School District. In the multiple business retention and expansion visits I have participated in over the years, identifying a qualified workforce is top of mind for many of our local manufacturers. I will continue to support efforts to prepare today’s students for the highly skilled and technical vocations available in the manufacturing sector.

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

I fully support the Republican tax plan that was passed last legislative session that would have eliminated the state’s general property tax on commercial and industrial property, it is unfortunate this tax relief bill was vetoed by the governor. I fully support the elimination of the state property tax, in order to provide tax relief to commercial and industrial property owners, and allow these property owners to expand their businesses.

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?

Minnesota needs an energy policy that appropriately balances conservation with supply and affordability. We need to ensure safe and reliable energy is available to Minnesotans. My concern is around establishing a generic renewable energy standard without understanding the impact that has on the cost of energy. Utility rates should reflect the costs related to delivering the service including the infrastructure of the utility system.

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

Funding improvements along HWYs 10 and 169 needs to be a priority for MNDOT. In the middle of October I attended a MNDOT meeting outlining future transportation plans, and unfortunately no work other than basic maintenance is slated for these highways in Big Lake or Elk River. Devoting funding to expanding roads and bridges must become a transportation priority for Minnesota.

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