Benz, Newton battle in open House District 37A

House District 37A is an open seat following redistricting.

Mandy Benz, GOP, and Jerry Newton, DFL, will be on the ballot.

1. Biography.

Mandy Benz
Mandy Benz

Benz: Mandy Benz, who resides in House District 37A with her husband Gary and 10-year-old son Brandon, is actively involved in community service and local political issues.

Currently, Benz serves on the Safety Commission for the city of Coon Rapids.

Benz believes her time spent working at the Minnesota Capitol as a staffer for the Jobs and Economic Growth Committee for the Minnesota Senate, and her studies in office management-legal criminal justice/government have given her a healthy understanding and experience of how the political system of the state functions to create a successful environment for economic growth and job creation.

If elected, Benz wants to take all her experience and knowledge and build on it.

My goal is to bring back a philosophy that government exists to serve the people, not the other way around.

I will listen to the people and understand what they want, and I will step up to serve my community on the state level as a citizen legislator.

Benz has received the small business endorsements of the Minnesota Chamber Leadership PAC, NFIB-National Federation Independent Business. Benz is also pro life and pro gun endorsed by the MCCL-Minnesota Concerned Citizens for Life and NRA-National Rifle Association.

Jerry Newton
Jerry Newton

Newton: I served 23 years active duty in the US Army, with tours in Vietnam and the Middle East. I was awarded the Bronze Star for my service in Vietnam.

Following my military service, I purchased the Blaine Dairy Store which I managed on a daily basis for over 20 years.

I was elected to the Coon Rapids City Council and the Anoka-Hennepin School Board, serving a total of 14 years before being elected to the Minnesota Legislature in 2008.

I served one term in the Legislature, authoring 43 bills and co-authoring 143.

I was the Minnesota School Board Association Legislator of the Year in 2009 and received the 2010 Friend of Public Education award from the Association of Metropolitan School Districts.

I have been active in many organizations including the Anoka-Hennepin Parent Legislative Team, president emeritus of Free2B, chairperson of the city of Anoka Human Rights Council, Metropolitan Council Transportation Advisory Board, as well as other local, county and national boards and committees.

Most recently, I served as co-chairperson of the Coon Rapids Dam Commission, enhancing the dam to prevent Asian carp from traveling upstream into the Mille Lacs Watershed.

Civic membership has included the Coon Rapids Rotary, the Coon Rapids American Legion, the John Rice VFW (life member) and a 25-year membership in the MetroNorth Chamber of Commerce.

I have a BA in government from the University of Maryland and a MA in international relations from Boston University.

I currently teach political science at Anoka-Ramsey Community College. My wife, Rita, and I have two children.

2. How should the Minnesota Legislature address future budget deficits – raise taxes, cut spending or both? What taxes should be raised? What programs should be cut?

Benz: Lower taxes and cut government waste, fraud and duplication of services.

It is important to pay off current debt before any new spending.

Much like our homes, we must set a budget. In that budget we determine priorities and ways to pay down existing debt to grow our way towards economic success in our homes.

Government should be no different.

An example of paying back debts include paying back the school shift.

The current Republican Legislature voted to pay back shifts.

Not only was this vetoed by Governor Dayton, but the governor asked to increase the shift measures to a 50/50 versus the current shift, increasing the borrowing of more money from schools.

My opponent voted to borrow millions from schools and raise taxes. If elected I will do neither.

Newton: I propose a balanced approach to dealing with the current budget deficit.

Governor Pawlenty’s JOBZ plan for relocating businesses to rural areas and the Choice is Yours program, which transports inner city youth to suburban schools, have both proven to be ineffective and costly. They should be eliminated.

We must close the tax loopholes that permit Minnesota businesses operating in Minnesota to claim a headquarters in another country in order to avoid Minnesota taxes.

I do not suggest raising taxes, but do propose that the effective tax rate for the wage earners making over $250,000 a year should be the same as for those who make $50,000 a year or less.

Currently, top wage earners pay an effective tax rate that is 2 percent less than middle income employees.

This proposal would eliminate the unfair tax advantages for the most affluent among us and put an end to the middle class bearing the brunt of the state tax burden.

3. Should the Minnesota Legislature increase state funding for K-12 education? If so, how? If not, why not?

Benz: The Anoka-Hennepin School District received some of the largest per pupil increases in funding in the state, including a $3 million grant to help correct the unfair formula that was previously in place.

Anoka Hennepin funding numbers include: FY 2013 (July 1, 2012 through, June 30, 2013) 37,185 students – since 2011, general education funding has gone up $11 million even though the student count has gone down 1,000 students.

This does not include the most recent property tax votes that Anoka-Hennepin passed last year.

Special education funding 2011 – $45,046.070; Special education funding 2012 – $46,875,075; special education funding 2013 – $48,994,436.

Per pupil funding 2011 – $9,908; per pupil funding 2012 – $10,111; per pupil funding 2013 – $10,678.

Newton: We know that a class size of 22 students in the elementary grades is key to high academic achievement in later years.

It is also known that smaller class sizes help significantly in closing the achievement gap.

Many state schools have elementary class sizes of 30 or more students. Therefore,

I propose increasing state funding for education by $150 per pupil to keep class sizes at a level where teachers can teach and students can learn.

This $120 million in additional funding would provide enough money for one additional teacher in each elementary grade in every school in the state.

It would be paid for by eliminating the JOBZ program, the Choice is Yours program and by closing offshore tax loopholes for businesses.

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