Sharon Shimek, MN House 30B

Sharon Shimek
Age: 66
Family: Husband Charles, Married going on 44 years. Two adult children.
Occupation: Currently retired. Left previous employment on medical leave in 2009 due to breast cancer diagnosis. Spent most of 2009 in treatment. Worked in customer service call center at Express Scripts, Inc. in Bloomington for between 10 and 11 years, helping callers with their prescription questions and their mail orders. Have also worked as a reporter from Dec 1985-June 1992 at the Mille Lacs County Times in Milaca.
Previous civic and community involvement: Most of my community involvement has been as a Sunday School teacher. In the 1970s when we lived in St. Cloud, I belonged to the St. Cloud Business and Professional Women, an organization which was working for the equal rights amendment and for shelters for women and children who were victims of domestic abuse. I had a friend at the time who was abused by her husband, so it was very personal for me. Over the years we lost touch, but I still think about her and what she endured before she finally divorced and left the situation.
1. Why are you running for office?
I am running for office because I decided that instead of saying somebody should do it, I should step forward. I dislike the nastiness that has gone on in the political work in the last few years, and I want to help get us past that. We need to work in a civilized manner in order to have an orderly government if we want to continue as a strong nation.
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?
It should not be handled solely through budget cuts. The state revenue should be carefully examined as well as the budget requests to determine is there can be any cuts. What are we citizens willing to give up? What should be cut? More cuts to education? More cuts to transportation? We need to look for ways to increase revenue by looking to see more businesses started.
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?
Yes. It was a good decision to build the commuter rail & I favor expansion.Higher gas prices might increase the ridership, I think that reviewing the marketing plan could help increase the numbers: show more on how it saves us money and 2) how to make it a fun way to get to our destination, besides the Twins games. We did like the rail when we went to a Twins game.
4. In general, are public schools adequately funded in Minnesota? If not, where should additional money come from?
Schools are not adequately funded and there is inequity between districts which needs to be addressed. It isn’t just where should money come from–it’s how it is portioned out. The formulary needs to be studied & school officials say it needs to be adjusted. It won’t be easy as changes rarely are, but must be done. Public education is vital to remaining a strong country.
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?
No, This appears to be a method more to cull out teachers who earn more and be replaced with teachers at a lower salary. It appears to be more of a union -busting than providing good teachers. It raises questions on how teachers are evaluated and raises questions on how assessments are made. It requires teachers, administrators and board members to work together.
6. Do you support passage of the two proposed constitutional amendments, Photo ID and the same-sex marriage ban, currently on the ballot?
No. Amendments guarantee freedoms not restrict them. There is already a state law banning same-sex marriages. On the Photo ID takes away the freedom of not having to prove I am a citizen, which we have to do to get a job. Plus, there are laws for people who commit fraudulent voting. In addition, these amendments could have far-reaching financial effects our taxes.
7. Can lawmakers do anything to help improve the state’s economy?
Yes. Lawmakers can review tax benefits to see if there are any changes which can be made which will not harm our citizens. Also, by knowing businesses and education in the state, lawmakers can be aware of new businesses development which can add to our economy by adding jobs that 1)pay living wages, 2) pay taxes and 3) help keep other businesses thriving.
8. If you could sign three laws into effect today, what would they be?
1) A more equitable property tax system.
9. What legislation would you support to reduce the number of abortions?
It is my opinion that public opinion and family values will have more of an effect than legislation. While I support a woman’s right to make decisions about her body, I would prefer the number decline. A woman should also be aware of contraception methods, including but not only abstinence.
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 state needs to review its payment plan to education so districts don’t have to run levies to maintain or improve the educational system. When financial stability crashes, so do property values and the resulting taxes. At the same time, we don’t want only state monies as local funding helps maintain local control of the schools.
11. What energy policies are needed in the state of Minnesota?
While continuing to invest in renewable energy sources, we need to look at using traditional sources using methods of protecting the earth and the atmosphere from damage.
12. What changes in health care reform would you push if elected?
I would look for reform that would benefit families and seniors. As a retirees on Social Security, my husband & I are learning first-hand about the donut hole on prescriptions, about what is & isn’t covered with Medicare. Aside from legislation, I would encourage everyone to be aware of taking good care of themselves. Does that make me sound like a mother?

Elk River Area Chamber of Commerce Questions

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

If recognizing that businesses are as vital a part of a community as education and churches, then I am pro business. Businesses employ people, allowing them to earn a living–making them able to buy homes and cars and other purchases that employ others in the community. Businesses and individuals pay taxes which help allow for public utilities to be lower and for schools to exist. In turn, roads are maintained so people can get to work, students to school, and shoppers to the stores. There are not automatic agreements on how these things are done, but then this is a democracy and working things out is part of having a healthy community. Churches affect the community by reaching out often in social needs, and businesses and schools also reach out to the community.

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

Teachers have to love the subject they teach and the students they work with. They have to be excited when students understand what they are being taught. But teachers don’t work in a vacuum. They have to meet requirements to teach, and on the job they work within a curriculum. They have to understand not just teaching methods, but the students’ learning styles. As much as possible, teachers should make the subject applicable to their students’ lives–though students may not always make a connection until later in life. This passion for their work should be evident in working with school personnel and with parents, including professional evaluations. In return parents should give feedback on their children’s view of school.

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?

In higher education, students need to learn that their subject matter or major is not the sole thing they need to know to go into the work world. Both four-year and two-year colleges/technical schools need to be up-to-date on the type of jobs available. That means school interaction with businesses to determine upcoming needs. Students need to have technology skills but they also need to know how to get along with co-workers and understand policies, procedures and the work culture. Schools and students need to understand that education isn’t just about jobs, it includes learning problem solving and creativity as many of today’s jobs were not available 10 or 20 or 30 years ago and we don’t know what all the jobs of the future will be. Creativity is often the jumping-off point for change, for entrepreneurship, and for developing good businesses.

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

All programs, including taxes, need to be regularly reviewed and updated as necessary. The property tax change made in 1988 is more than 20 years old and much has changed. It is time to look at it so it can be changed and adapted to a more viable for for today.

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?

Can our society afford to have each group of customers pay the full bill-whether it is businesses or residential? Energy rates need to be manageable but I’m not sure that making changes would be easy. On the other hand, making changes for the better always has to be considered.

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

Yes. It is a priority. It has been in-the-works for some time and it is time to get it done. I think I read that federal funding approved some time ago would be lost if the work is not done soon. It was a large enough funding that it should not be lost. Then the city, the state and local businesses and residents should work together to help local businesses from financial suffering when the construction is underway.