Rep. Eric Lucero, the Republican-endorsed candidate from Dayton for House District 30B, will face off against DFL-endorsed candidate Margaret Fernandez, of St. Michael.
Family: I have been married 23 years and have 2 children
Previous civic and community involvement: I was a Senior Asset Manager responsible for building investment products for customers. I managed hundreds of millions of dollars in client assets. In this experience, I learned how to negotiate. As the wife of a veteran, I understand the needs of veterans and their families and know the challenges of a single working parent with children and a husband in a war zone. As a Realtor I work with families to gain financial independence through home ownership. I coached soccer for many years. I know that children need programs and a good solid foundation to thrive and grow.
Family: Erum, wonderful wife of 18 years
Occupation: Cyber Security Consultant, Small Business Owner, Real Estate Agent
Previous civic and community involvement: Current State Representative; Current Presenter & Teacher of Biblical Studies; Former Dayton City Council Member.
•Dayton resident 16 years
•Married 18 years
•Born on U.S. Army base in Germany
•Small Business Owner
•Cyber Security Specialist
•Former Cyber Security College Instructor at Metropolitan State University
•Licensed Real Estate Agent
•Licensed General Contractor
•Former Commercial Truck Driver
•MBA from Carlson School of Management
•BAS in Computer Forensics
•BS in Law Enforcement
•Minor in Mathematics
•Minor in Psychology
1. Why are you running for office, and what is your top priority?
Margaret Fernandez: Recently, the budget was balanced off of our schools. Last session our legislators voted to give $32 million to tobacco and tax giveaways for corporations and businesses that don’t live or pay taxes in Minnesota. The GOP voted against tax relief for seniors to protect tax benefits for businesses. The GOP voted for a .6 percent increase in formula funding for schools. Our district doesn’t receive the full amount other districts do in our state. With a $2 billion state surplus, we do not need higher taxes, we need to reprioritize to focus on hardworking taxpayers in our district.
Eric Lucero: Roads and bridges transportation funding without raising taxes to complete important projects including the 3-lane expansion of I-94 to Albertville, equity in education funding for our schools, continue fighting for pro-life and pro-Second Amendment rights, tax cuts to promote continued economic growth, and fixing skyrocketing health care costs that are crushing the budgets of families and businesses.
2. The 2016 Legislature adjourned without addressing key items – taxes, transportation and bonding bills. As of this writing, leadership could not agree on an agenda for a special session. Partisan gridlock is a recurring theme. What specific measures do you support to increase the transparency and reduce the gridlock of the lawmaking process?
Margaret Fernandez: As a citizen of our community, I am frustrated with the gridlock like many. The role of our legislators is to be the voice, negotiator and advocate for our district. I support reforms making the process more open to the public. Every bill should get a 24 hour review from the public prior to a vote. Our current representatives were unwilling and unable to get measures passed from MNsure, education funding, tax reform supporting the middle class, small business reform, transportation and broadband funding. It is time to send a leader with a no nonsense business background to St. Paul.
Eric Lucero: Measures I support include earlier deadlines for final passage of bills sent to the governor thereby increasing transparency and eliminating bills passing minutes before adjournment deadline. At the same time though, Republicans in the House successfully finished our work. We passed a three-year, $801 million tax relief package with 89 percent of the Legislature voting in favor that was subsequently vetoed by Gov. Dayton after the Legislature adjourned. Additionally, Republicans passed a mutually negotiated and agreed upon infrastructure bonding bill but Senate Democrats subsequently broke their word after negotiations by amending the bill to add wasteful spending on Southwest Light Rail.
3. Budget: The tax-and-spend debate is at the core of setting the state budget. What is your formula in terms of tax and spending policies to strengthen the state’s economy? Be specific in which personal and/or business taxes you would increase or decrease. What is our taxpayer money worth?
Margaret Fernandez: We passed school referendums and don’t have the state funding other districts are receiving. We need the additional funding that is already set aside for education. Seniors should get access to tax breaks instead of what the GOP voted for, a tax break for corporations, or the $32 million in tax breaks for the tobacco industry. I believe we need to give back to the taxpayers in the middle class and close the corporate loopholes for businesses that do not give back to the community. We can reprioritize our spending.
Eric Lucero: I support immediate relief for families and businesses from crushing income taxes. It’s a known fact raising taxes results in a negative impact, which was the exact result of the largest tax increase in state history by Democrats in 2013 on the backs of people working hard to provide incomes for their families and businesses. According to the results of an independent study included in an article titled “Minnesota’s Great Wealth Migration” recently published in Twin Cities Business Magazine, more than 12,000 Minnesotans are expected to exit Minnesota by the year 2020, taking a combined total $5.2 billion in taxable income with them.
4. Education, K-12: Statewide implementation of teacher evaluations began in 2014. Do you support legislation that would require districts to consider performance as well as seniority when deciding teacher layoffs?
Margaret Fernandez: I moved to this district 15 years ago because of the schools. US News Report voted St. Michael one of the top high schools in the country. We should not be discussing teacher layoffs in a district that has a growing population of students. People in our district have passed many referendums and value education. We need to be focusing on how we can continue to be an educational leader with good teachers and supports for our children. Good schools boost the community and the property values of the community. My focus is the tradition of making our community great.
Eric Lucero: Yes. The current policy requiring the last to be hired shall be the first to be fired defies logic. A person’s date-of-hire should be only one of many factors considered if school districts are faced with difficult teacher layoff decisions.
5. Education, higher education: Many employers remain frustrated in their ability to find qualified workers for the available jobs. What role does higher education play in addressing this problem?
Margaret Fernandez: I have a child preparing for college. My husband and I saved some money to help with the crippling cost. I know this isn’t an option for everyone and we need solutions. My teenager had the opportunity to participate in the Post Secondary Education Option. She will graduate high school with an associate’s degree and potentially complete her college degree with little college debt. We must continue to look for creative ways to address the cost of higher education so future generations can move into the workforce. More students will finish their college education and employers will have qualified workers.
Eric Lucero: The solution includes further integration of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) related courses and programs beginning in high school to allow expanded opportunities for students to enter the STEM education pipeline as early as possible. After having taught college-level computer security related courses for seven years, I speak from personal experience when I say the problem cannot be solved merely at the Higher-Ed level. Several tech-colleges around the state have partnered with high schools to develop STEM focused programs offered at the high school level and development of such partnerships and programs must continue.
6. Health care: MNsure, the state’s health care exchange, has come under heavy criticism since its creation. Is it serving its purpose? Do you advocate any changes, or should it remain as is?
Margaret Fernandez: No one should die of a preventable disease in America. For my family health care premiums have skyrocketed. If a family member gets sick our health care costs would be 1,000 percent more than 20 years ago. Our salaries haven’t kept pace. Profits and salaries of insurance executives and inflated prescription drug prices are responsible. By scrapping MNsure, premiums would still increase, existing conditions wouldn’t be covered, and many people wouldn’t have health care coverage. The uninsured would resort to emergency room visits, and the costs would fall on the taxpayers to pick up the bill. We need a focused negotiator fighting for Minnesota.
Eric Lucero: No. It’s absolutely not working. Gov. Dayton finally admitted this month Obamacare / MNsure is “no longer affordable,” adding that Obamacare / MNsure have “some serious blemishes and serious deficiencies.” Gov. Dayton and legislative Democrats in the House and Senate thrust this broken system upon hardworking Minnesota families and businesses adding tens of thousands of dollars of additional costs to many of us without a single Republican vote. My hope is Democrats will join Republicans to fix the broken health care system by adding free-market solutions proven to empower individuals and businesses with choice, increase efficiency, increase innovation, and decrease cost.
7. Jobs benefit: Should the state mandate paid family leave? If so, should all sizes of employers have to comply, and how should a program be financed?
Margaret Fernandez: My family has two incomes. I was fortunate to have sick time and paid family leave when I had my children. All of us that are parents know this is important to the healing of the mother and baby. Likewise, sick time for full-time employees is crucial and fosters a healthy, productive work environment. As a first-world country, we are one of the only countries that don’t offer paid family leave. Countries all over the world including, China and India, offer family leave. We as a state and nation must decide together if this is something we value.
Eric Lucero: No. Government needs to get out of the way of business, not create additional mandates and red tape such as government mandated leave. The Tax Foundation’s recently issued 2017 State Business Tax Climate Index ranked Minnesota’s business tax climate the 46th-worst. Creating additional mandates will only cause more businesses to leave and more innocent, hardworking people to lose their jobs.
8.Transportation: What will it take pass a comprehensive funding for roads, bridges and transit? What sources of revenue should be raised for what specific programs? Or is current funding sufficient?
Margaret Fernandez: Transportation is a critical issue that must be addressed. It costs money sitting in traffic and we don’t have easy access to work. It’s dangerous to have unsafe roads and bridges. My husband is a first responder and the first fire truck called to help pull children and adults from the 35W bridge collapse. I sat in traffic everyday commuting into Minneapolis for 9 years. Every time we sit in traffic for an hour that is time not spent with family. The average family in our district makes approximately $44 an hour. We need to decide what roads are worth.
Eric Lucero: Passing comprehensive funding requires stopping money from being diverted away from roads and bridges to be spent on wasteful programs such as Metropolitan Council’s Light Rail projects. Republicans in the House passed a $7 billion plan to fund roads and bridges over the next 10 years without raising taxes by redirecting existing revenue toward roads and bridges priorities. As a member of the Transportation Committee I look forward to continuing the work to fund proven transportation programs such as Corridors of Commerce while at the same time working to stop gas tax increases.
9. Energy: Should Minnesota increase its renewable energy mandates on utilities, or is current law sufficient? This is a value question we as citizens need to decide. Do we want our small businesses to compete on the state, national and global level?
Margaret Fernandez: Do we value education for rural areas and want a future educated work force? Where I work we always say, “you have to invest in something for it to be successful.” If we as a state want to continue to be successful we have to invest in ourselves. We have a $2 billion surplus, there is no reason we can’t invest in tomorrow.
Eric Lucero: No. Increased mandates on utility providers causing regulatory uncertainty and higher energy costs should not continue. President Obama’s action to shut down coal power plants via EPA Rule 111(D), including Sherco located in Becker, was performed with zero committee hearings or legislative action. At a forum I attended in Becker in 2015, Gov. Dayton’s MNPCA Assistant Commissioner declared Gov. Dayton does not need legislative approval before implementing the new coal mandates. Unilateral action by Gov. Dayton should be halted immediately because I firmly believe the Executive Branch should not act unilaterally without the consent of the governed through the Legislature.
10. Elections: Do you support moving the primary election from August to June in an effort to increase voter turnout?
Margaret Fernandez: If the citizens in Minnesota believe this is a change they want to make, then I support their decision. We do need to look at when candidates are nominated and give them time to prepare and get their message out. More importantly we need to get money out of politics to level the playing field.
Eric Lucero: I support keeping the primary election in August to allow citizens greater opportunity to meet and get to know candidates prior to the primary election. Local issues and drivers have far greater influence on voter turnout than which month the primary election happens to be held.