Mike Starr, DFL, opposes incumbent Michelle Benson, GOP, in Minnesota Senate District 31.
Benson: Michelle Benson is running for a second term in the Minnesota Senate.
Born on a farm in Minnesota, Benson was raised with a solid work ethic.
She and her husband, Craig, are longtime residents of Ham Lake with their two sons, Calvin and Grant, and their daughter Claire.
She is also a member of Epiphany Catholic Church, Minnesota Society of CPAs and MetroNorth Chamber of Commerce.
A certified public accountant with an MBA from the University of St. Thomas, Benson has worked with small business as an accountant and consultant.
Serving in the Senate since 2011, Michelle has fought for more efficient government, reducing taxes and quality education.
Her service includes being on the committees for Health and Human Services, Energy, Agriculture, and Government Reform and Redesign. Additional service includes Minnesota Health Reform Task Force and the Capitol Security Commission.
Michelle has received endorsements from Minnesota Chamber of Commerce, MetroNorth Chamber of Commerce, Farm Bureau, MCCL, NRA (A Rating), Gun Owners Civil Rights Alliance (A-Rating), Minnesota Medical (PAC), Minnesotans for Personal Choice and Competition in Healthcare, Republican Liberty Caucus, Voices of Conservative Women and the Republican Party of Minnesota SD31.
Because of her legislative record she was awarded National Federation of Independent Business “Guardian of Small Business” and Farmers Union “Farm and Rural Legislative Award.”
Starr: 1972 graduate St. Francis High School; U.S. Air Force security police dog handler; commissioned 2nd Lt. North Dakota Army National Guard; BS in criminal justice, Minot State University; five years N.D. state parole/probation officer; full-time active duty service for the N.D. Army National Guard.
Retired with 25 years of military service; former ISD 15 (St. Francis) School Board member; currently substitute teacher ISD 15; summer alcohol compliance officer, Target Field for the Twins.
Small business owner, Mike Starr Leadership Seminars Inc. and StarrLite Music DJ Service;
Married to Sue for over 28 years, proud parents of three sons; community volunteer.
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?
Benson: Our deficit projections are based on projected spending and projected revenue.
Our current general fund budget for the biennium is $34 billion.
The general fund budget for next biennium is projected to be over $36 billion.
That is a growth of $2 billion in only two years. Revenue is projected to be $35 billion.
The taxpayers of Minnesota are providing us with over a billion dollars in additional revenue, but because of increased spending, we face a deficit.
We have a spending problem, not a revenue problem.
In fact, Minnesota has one of the least friendly tax climates in the United States.
Our corporate income tax is 9.8 percent. Governor Dayton proposed a 10.93 percent tax rate on households over $140,000.
Tax increases will not grow our economy or put Minnesotans back to work.
I support policies that reform government and focus on improving our economy.
Raising taxes should not be the focus for finding solutions.
Starr: Political courage is needed in the State Senate to have an open and honest discussion on the financial cliff our state is headed for.
Spending cuts and higher taxes are needed to get our state back on an even level.
In the Senate I will call for a complete study for all programs including entitlement programs.
Every program from corporate welfare to welfare for the needy will be reviewed.
I will work for a fair share tax code. Why should the middle class pay a higher percentage of taxes versus the rich.
I call it, equitable taxes for everyone.
I support our mom and pop local merchants who pay property taxes, school taxes and support every fund raiser in the area.
To level the field for mom and pop local merchants, I support collecting sales taxes on all Internet purchases.
The question I always ask is, “What do you want from your government, and how much are you willing to pay for it?”
I will always be respectful with the taxpayers money.
3. Should the Minnesota Legislature increase state funding for K-12 education? If so, how? If not, why not?
Benson: The Republican budgets increased K-12 spending by $650 million, but included key reforms such as teacher and principal evaluations, literacy improvements and mandate relief.
Any future increases in funding should accomplish two goals: equalize per pupil funding and tie any special funds to academic improvement.
Our students will have to compete regionally, nationally and globally.
Our math and science scores are slipping when compared to other nations.
Minnesota cannot be a leader in innovation and economic growth if we are not continually improving our education system.
Simply increasing funding for status quo systems will not prepare us for the future.
Starr: First of all we have to pay back our school districts over $2.4 billion due to delay/shifting payments.
K-12 is the largest part of the state budget.
As a former school board member it falls back on the local school boards to look at their budgets.
Increased funding for special education is needed from both the federal and state levels.
When we increase funding for special education, school districts will not have to take funding from regular education programs, thereby providing more funding to run the schools.
Because of the delayed payments to our school districts they have to take out loans and pay interest payments, which in turn takes money out of the schools.
I would also like to see caps on salary payments to superintendents along with benefit caps.
I believe in local control, yet too many school districts pay out just too much in salary and benefits.