by Howard Lestrud
ECM Political Editor
It’s time for a different governor, says Senate Minority Leader David Hann, R-Eden Prairie.
Whether that different governor should be Sen. Hann remains to be seen. Hann said he is thinking about being a Republican candidate for governor but will not make his decision public until later this month.
Hann said his wife Anne has been treated for cancer the past year and he wishes to get through that battle first. Hann said the treatment has been successful and his wife is cancer free.
Hann was a gubernatorial candidate four years ago and said he regarded the experience a good one.
“I learned a lot and made some good friends,” Hann said.
While deliberating on a decision to seek election to the state’s highest executive office, Hann has been visiting Republican caucus members around the state. He calls these weeks after the session as a time “to get out and talk to the people.”
The four-term senator often becomes philosophical in talking about politics and in assessing the work of the Minnesota Legislature. Hann loves to read, and in particular, the works of the Greek philosopher Aristotle. His writings cover many subjects, including physics, metaphysics, poetry, theater, music, logic, rhetoric, linguistics, politics, government, ethics, biology and zoology.
The 2013 session has passed and Hann is not reluctant to harshly critique the work of the Democratic-controlled Legislature.
“Obviously, we were in the minority and were not in a position to affect our agenda; we didn’t have the votes,” Hann said.
He looked at the Democrats’ approach the last session as being over taxing, over spending and over reaching. The Legislature approved a $3 billion increase in spending, “and I ask, why did we do that?” Hann said.
“These taxes will hit everybody,” he said. “What is the bang that citizens will get?”
Hann said the additional taxes, including taxes on warehousing, will affect every retail operation and costs will go to the consumers. He also mentioned Internet taxes affecting every Minnesotan. Hann said the taxes will be detrimental to the economy at a time when it was beginning to see some resurgence.
Other states are reducing tax burdens but in Minnesota, the opposite is being done, Hann said. To the competitive market place, “what we have done is more harmful than positive,” Hann said. Hann said the failure to show restraint in raising taxes is a missed opportunity to provide incentives for growth and to provide in government some reform in doing what the state is doing.
Hann said very little reform was seen accomplished during this last session. In fact, he said, some reforms from the past session were repealed. He listed the establishment of high school graduation requirements and also said the standards scale of basic skills for teachers was also repealed.
“We eliminated some things that were enacted previously to improve the quality of the classroom experience for kids,” Hann said.
Education legislation has been listed as a major accomplishment of this past Legislature, led by the Democrats. Education is also an area that the Republican Senate Caucus is emphasizing as a future priority, one of three Hann listed for the Republicans.
“We spend a lot of money on education, but in my opinion, we don’t get the return for what we are spending or for what we have spent over the years,” Hann said. He said significant monies have been spent but no significant improvement has been realized. “We need to find some answers for the resources we devote to education. We need to spend some time and focus on reform, meaningful reform, looking into policy ideas that can lead to that meaningful reform.”
A second priority of the caucus revolves around showing the negative fallout of day care unionization. Hann said the intense focus on the compulsory unionization of home day care business was the biggest surprise of the past session. The Legislature, by a slim margin in both houses, approved unionization of day care after Gov. Mark Dayton tried to do it unilaterally months previous.
Hann and other Republican leaders have called the day care unionization legislation as a political payback.
“Unions are in debt and this is a way to get taxpayer dollars off the top as dues,” Hann said. He said the unionization does nothing to improve child care. Hann called the unionization move one of corruption and a decision that “is just wrong.”
Hann said these taxpayer dollars are used to fund the political activities to elect politicians with a circle of influence. Hann said the Democrat politicians then enact legislation to help the public sector union. Hann asked: “Is this a good way to govern our state in giving the employees of the state that extraordinary influence to, in effect, buy the laws of how they are managed?”
A third issue trumpeted on Hann’s travels around the state concerns looking at the growing relationship between the state and the federal government, a growing dependency happening most markedly in the health care arena.
Hann said about 60 percent of the state budget comes from federal dollars.
“Entitlement is one reason why the federal government is in such difficult straits financially,” Hann said.
Hann called the federal spending “out of control” and he said he does not know how the government is going to get out of this mess. He said it is now being passed on to the state in Medicaid.
Hann said Minnesota is putting itself at risk of possibly going down the tubes with the federal government at some point when the money runs out. Hann said the state should manage its programs the best it can and should not sign off to be dependent on the federal government. He said the federal government cannot be trusted.
Thirty-four other states have decided not to go down the path of the federal government “and that’s a good thing,” Hann said. “Let’s start to manage our own budget, our own fiscal state and not get dependent on the sinking ship that is a the federal mess,” Hann said.
Summarizing the three Republican priorities for this summer, Hann said the issues are not just Republican issues but issues of the state.
“We need to have a stronger education system, that means we need to reform it in a more serious way, not just by putting more money into it. We have to really rethink the power of the political public sector and the corrupting influence they have had on the politics of the state. We have to rethink our relationship with the federal government in relation to health care and other mandated programs where we take the money and we get co-oped into the policies and form a dependent relationship that puts us at a financial risk.”
A strong opponent of the same-sex marriage bill, Hann said he doesn’t believe the majority of the people in the state of Minnesota wanted to see the current marriage law changed.
“I do think it will have far-reaching effects on our culture,” Hann said. He said the amount of discussion on the bill was very limited considering potential effects it will have. Hann said “there was far greater debate and discussion about the Vikings stadium over the past two to three years.”
Issues were not fully vetted and efforts by the opposition were shouted down on the same-sex marriage bill in the course of discussion, Hann said. He said he hopes there is an effort to have more complete consideration of what the effects of this law will be.
Hann said he was not surprised that significant gun control legislation was not passed this last session. He said Republicans and Democrats both opposed major gun legislation. Hann called proposed gun control legislation as a knee-jerk reaction of a lot of liberals wanting to ban guns, confiscate guns or register them.
Looking on the side of good things accomplished in a bipartisan manner, Hann immediately pointed to passage of the public safety judiciary bill. He also said both parties supported continued restoration of the State Capitol by passing $180 million in legislation.
What’s next on the legislative agenda? Hann said Democrats are already getting push-back on problematic parts of the tax bill and he believes this will be revisited next session. Hann also said a significant bonding bill, maybe in the $700 million to $800 million range, will be promoted by Democrats. Thirdly, more policy initiatives may be addressed by the Legislature including those on sex offenders.
Whether in the minority or majority, Hann wants to direct loyalty toward the Republican ideal of everyone having an equal opportunity to pursue chances to improve their lives. That’s the purpose of government, he said.
Howard Lestrud can be reached at [email protected]