Three candidates vie for House District 35A seat

Republican incumbent Jim Abler is opposed by DFLer Andy Hillebregt and Justin Boals of the Independence Party in House Distict 35A. Boals did not respond to the questionnaire.

1. Biography.

Jim Abeler
Jim Abeler

Abeler: I have practiced family chiropractic in Anoka for 33 years, serving in the clinic founded by my father Dr. Jim Abeler Sr. in 1951.

After graduating from Anoka High School in 1972, I attended Hamline University and the U of MN and graduated from Northwestern College of Chiropractic in 1979.

My wife, Barb, and I have sons ages 29 to 13, three daughters-in-law and two grandchildren with one more on the way.

In addition, we were the founders of PACT Charter School (now in Ramsey), one of Minnesota’s largest and most successful charter schools.

Over my 14 years of legislative service, I have been honored by over three dozen groups with awards recognizing my service, including the National Federation of Independent Business, the Minnesota Ambulance Association, the League of Minnesota Cities, the Hemophilia Association, the Minnesota School Boards Association, the Minnesota Psychiatric Society, the March of Dimes and the Brain Injury Association.

My hobbies include cheering for Anoka sports teams, boating, cross country skiing and working on our log cabin in Hayward, Wis.

Andy Hillebregt
Andy Hillebregt

Hillebregt:  I have lived in Ramsey most of my life and am proud to raise my children here.

I have a deep commitment to the area. My wife Jill and I have been married for 15 years and we have three sons who keep us very busy.

August is a 10th-grader at Elk River High School, Ander is a seventh-grader at Salk Middle School and Aidan is a third-grader at Twin Lakes Elementary School.

My wife and I are working parents. I am self-employed and my wife works for the state of Minnesota.

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?

Abeler: I have made many reforms in state programs that have saved money and made the system work better.

This is particularly true of my work in human services, for the over 800,000 disabled, poor and elderly people who rely on our many safety net and other programs.

My goal has been to change the way the state does its business, both in the ways services are provided and also by assuring that each service is necessary.

This is best done by working in a collaborative mode.

This past session I was instrumental in crafting a consensus budget that created many positive reforms.

Spending was reduced, slowing the growth in the $25 billion human services budget from an unsustainable 22 percent to only 8 percent for a combined state/federal biennial savings of $2 billion.

This is the way to make sure the promises we make are ones we can keep and that our budget stays balanced.

After we have done this sort of work throughout the state budget, we can determine how much if any new revenue will be required.

Any revenue increases must be done so that it will not punish productivity or drive jobs away to other states or countries.

Hillebregt: I believe this question and the options show the exact problem with our current system and why it needs to change.

We are too focused on raising and lowering taxes when our real job is supposed to be determining as a Legislature what are the priorities of the citizens of this state.

Once these decisions are made the Legislature needs to determine what level of services and functions the government can or should financially support.

It would be the job of the department of finance to adjust the tax rate accordingly.

I believe this approach more closely aligns the tax issue with what citizens want from their government services and what they are willing to pay in taxes.

In the interim I think we need to look at all agencies to see if there are services that either overlap or are very seldom used.

Some of these services can be better served by non profits or be transferred to different agencies whose mission is better suited to provide the service.

We can continue to find ways to save money on redundant services.

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

Abeler: Equitable school funding has proven to be a challenging quest like Ponce de Leon had in searching for the fountain of youth.

Funding formulas rooted in urban versus suburban versus rural interests have created great inequities for many districts, including most of those in our north suburban region.

The old Minnesota Miracle, where excess property tax levies were supplemented by generous state aids, is on life support.

A good deal of my efforts for our area school districts has been to continuously address fair funding for our property-poor districts, like Anoka-Hennepin and Elk River.

While we have seen some success from those efforts, much of that task remains before us.

While I don’t see a time when the property tax will be retired from its role in education funding, it needs to be a fair and equitable burden, evenly spread across the state.

The challenge is that those districts which currently get funding above average don’t want any changes, and awarding similar benefits to others like ours is very costly, in the hundreds of millions of dollars.

Nonetheless, our area school districts and students deserve fair funding and equal treatment.

And I will keep working for fairness.

Hillebregt: We as a state need to make sure our children have access to the best education possible. So yes we should increase funding.

The state should be looking at our schools that are failing or close to failing and infuse them with funding first with a mandate that the extra funds go to institute programs that have been proven to work by other schools or districts.

And then we need to reassess how we test and determine failing and succeeding schools.

I believe that our current standardized testing leaves too many people behind and does not take into account the many learning styles or the speed at which each individual learns.

We need to look at alternative ways to look at each student’s learning abilities and group them by ability not age and grade.

We can still use testing as a way to measure their progress and to help ensure what we are doing is working for each student.

Every student can succeed but at a different rate.

We also need to provide abilities testing that will help guide older students to pursue areas of interest and determine their future job goals.

We need to have programs for all walks of life, but we also need to educate for the jobs we have like manufacturing which involves mechanical aptitude.

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