Minnesota Senate District 28 Candidate, Jeremy Miller
Tuesday, October 30, 2012 8:23 AM
Editor's note: Running for Minnesota Senate District 28 (formerly District 31 before redistricting) are incumbent Jeremy Miller (R-Winona) and Jack Krage (D-Winona). The candidates were asked the following questions, and they have submitted these responses.
1. Top priority: If elected, what is your top priority for the 2013 Legislature? Why are you running for office?
Miller: My priorities are to work on policies that encourage job growth and economic development, ensure our children are getting a world-class education in our public schools and promoting fiscal responsibility in state government. I will also continue to support veterans, senior citizens and our most vulnerable.
I'm running for a second term in the Minnesota Senate because of my desire to continue to work together with the people in southeastern Minnesota and colleagues on both sides of the aisle to take action, get results and make a difference.
2. Budget: Minnesota faces a long-term structural imbalance in its budget. What are your guiding principles for addressing continuing shortfalls? Do you favor spending cuts only, tax increases only, or a combination? Do you support expansion of the state sales tax to such items as food and clothing? If you support tax increases, be specific in which taxes you would increase.
Miller: When I was first elected two years ago, our state was facing a projected budget deficit of over $6 billion, our cash flow and budget reserve accounts were empty and the state owed our schools $1.4 billion as a result of the 2010 school shift.
Today, our state is over $1 billion ahead of budget for the current biennium and as a result, our cash flow and budget reserve accounts are full and the state has started to pay back the money owed to our schools. There is no question the State of Minnesota is in much better financial position today than two years ago. This is the result of being fiscally responsible, investing in reforms that are helping make state government more effective and efficient and promoting policies that encourage job growth and economic development.
In addition, revenues have been averaging $40 million per month ahead of budget. The additional revenue combined with savings from several government reforms will likely eliminate the projected deficit for the next budget cycle. The budget for the next biennium will be set after the February 2013 official budget forecast is released by Minnesota Management and Budget.
3. Education, K-12: Minnesota has one of the widest achievement gaps between white and minority students. How do you propose correcting this problem? Do you support legislation that would require districts to consider performance as well as seniority when deciding teacher layoffs?
Miller: One of the bi-partisan education reforms I'm most excited about that was passed by the Legislature and signed into law by the governor is called literacy incentive aid, which will help encourage school districts to focus on reading skills for all students at an early age.
Beginning this school year, districts are eligible for additional aid based on how well students in the third grade are reading and how much progress they make in their in reading skills between grades three and four. The $48 million per year of additional aid will be distributed based on the results of statewide reading tests.
The Legislature also passed a new teacher performance evaluation review that will be effective in 2014. We are fortunate to have great teachers in our southeastern Minnesota school districts and this new performance evaluation review is meant to help make our teachers even better and to ensure our students are getting a top quality education. I'm supportive of the idea to consider performance as well as seniority when deciding teacher layoffs.
4. Education, higher ed: Many employers are facing a continuing shortage of qualified workers for the available jobs. How should the state address this workforce skills gap? What must be done to assure that our higher ed system is preparing workers for the available jobs in today's economy?
Miller: As our economy changes and businesses become more technologically advanced, it's more important than ever to ensure we have proper training and advancement opportunities for our workforce.
The Minnesota State Colleges and Universities (MnSCU) system is in the process of working with business and community leaders throughout the state to advance the competitiveness of Minnesota's workforce. One of my top priorities is to encourage job growth and economic development opportunities in Minnesota, especially in Greater Minnesota communities. In order for us to grow jobs and encourage economic development, there must be opportunities for our workforce to improve existing skills and learn new skills. As a member of the Senate Higher Education Committee, I will continue to work with MnSCU, business leaders and community leaders to address this important issue.
5. Health care: Minnesota is taking steps to create a state-specific health insurance exchange, following the U.S. Supreme Court's affirmation of the Affordable Care Act. Should Minnesota create its own exchange or should it take no action to create an exchange?
Miller: If the state takes no action on a health insurance exchange program, the federal government will put one in place for us, which is why I support a health care exchange for Minnesotans by Minnesotans.
Although I don't agree with all aspects of the Affordable Care Act, it is current law and unless the law changes, we have to abide by it.
6. Transportation: Is Minnesota adequately addressing its transportation needs - roads and transit? If more money is needed, what sources of revenue should be raised for what specific programs?
Miller: Minnesota still has many transportation funding needs, specifically highway improvements and access to rural transit providers. We need to improve our farm-to-market system by increasing capacity and improving corridor safety. By issuing trunk highway bonds, the state can take advantage of historically low interest rates and competitive construction costs. Our ability to move people and goods is a critical component to rebuilding our economic competitiveness and strength. The best way to increase revenue to fund these critical needs is by growing our economy and creating more jobs in the state.
I am committed to preserving the already scarce state funding for Greater Minnesota transit services. Just as commuters and farmers rely on a safe and efficient highway system, many people in our area depend on rural transit providers to get them to medical appointments, church services, and social gatherings. For these transit riders, state support of rural transit services is about more than just mobility; it enables them to remain active in the community and promotes their personal well-being.
7. Energy: What sources of energy do you support to meet the state's base-load energy needs? Is Minnesota doing enough to diversify its energy generation portfolio?
Miller: We need an "all of the above" approach when determining what types of generation will fulfill Minnesota's future base-load energy needs. Current law prohibits the construction on nuclear power plants and severely handicaps the ability to expand coal-fired generation. We need an even handed regulatory process that allows all forms of generation to compete against each other on an even playing field. That way, only the most efficient, environmentally friendly and cost effective projects move forward. We are also seeing more natural gas incorporated as a clean base-load option and, given its flexibility, it is a perfect match for backing up intermittent wind and solar to ensure the reliability of our system.
Minnesota has a very diverse energy generation portfolio and we must continue to build on those successes. Adding additional base-load power to our system is paramount, but we also need to expand our transmission infrastructure to bring that new generation to market. We must also continue our strong commitment to energy conservation, efficiency and the development of renewable power like wind and solar. This balanced approach makes Minnesota a very competitive place to live and conduct business.
8. Constitutional amendments: Do you support the voter ID amendment? Do you support the same-sex marriage amendment?
Miller: I've heard concerns from several constituents about the integrity of our election process. I supported voter ID legislation in 2011 because it addressed the integrity issue that many constituents had concerns about. The voter ID legislation passed the Legislature, but was vetoed by Governor Dayton. I voted against the voter ID constitutional amendment on the Senate Floor because I do not believe we should legislate through the constitution.
It's important to know that state law already defines marriage between one man and one woman. The proposed constitutional marriage amendment would not change state law. The overwhelming majority of constituents I heard from felt the people deserved the opportunity to vote on this important issue. One of the most common comments I received was, until we let the people vote, we won't truly know where Minnesotans stand on the issue of marriage. Based on feedback from constituents, I supported giving people the opportunity to vote on the constitutional marriage amendment.
9. Other issues: Are there other issues you want to address?
Miller: It has been an absolute honor to represent the people of Fillmore, Houston and Winona Counties as a member of the Minnesota Senate. My philosophy is simple, listen to the people and work together with colleagues on both sides of the aisle to take action, get results and make a difference.
As a result, we've been able to accomplish several great things for southeastern Minnesota. Those accomplishments include reforming the problematic Green Acres Program, designating southeast Minnesota as a site for a new veterans cemetery, authorizing funding for the Greater Minnesota Business Development Public Infrastructure Grant Program, streamlining the permitting process and the criminalization of the dangerous synthetic drugs known as "plant food" and "bath salts."
We also increased base funding to education, many rural nursing homes and provided an additional $34 million for direct-to-homeowner property tax relief.
Thank you for the opportunity to represent you, the people, in the Minnesota Senate. It's an absolute honor and I would truly appreciate your support on Nov. 6 so we can continue to work together and make a positive difference.
10. Briefly summarize your personal background and qualifications.
Miller: I serve as Chief Financial Officer (CFO) at Wm. Miller Scrap Iron & Metal Co., our family recycling business that dates back to 1910. My two brothers and I are the fourth generation and we have 25 hard working employees. I do the accounting for the company as well as buying and selling of commodities. My wife and I also operate a small business.
I'm married to my beautiful wife, Janel (Ellinghuysen) of Lewiston, Minn., and we have an 8-month-old son, Drew.
I'm an active member of the community and currently volunteer with the Winona Family YMCA, Winona State University Warrior Club, Saint Mary's University Athletic Advisory Board, Minnesota State College-Southeast Technical and the Winona Area Chamber of Commerce.
I'm also involved with the Morrie Miller Athletic Foundation. The MMAF has been instrumental in supporting and sustaining youth athletics. This includes the Morrie Miller Youth Tackle Football League, which has teams from Houston, Lewiston, Rushford-Peterson, Spring Grove and Winona.
I was first elected to the Minnesota Senate in 2010 and currently serving on the following Senate Committees: Agriculture and Rural Economies, Capital Investment, Environment and Natural Resources, Jobs and Economic Growth, and vice-chair of Higher Education.