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Johnson talks government, health care reforms during Worthington visit

WORTHINGTON -- Gubernatorial hopeful Jeff Johnson spoke with area residents in Worthington Thursday, pushing for changes to Minnesota's health care system, fewer regulations for farmers and reforms to the way the legislature is led.

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Republican gubernatorial candidate Jeff Johnson speaks with Worthington-area residents Thursday. (Karl Evers-Hillstrom / The Globe)
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WORTHINGTON - Gubernatorial hopeful Jeff Johnson spoke with area residents in Worthington Thursday, pushing for changes to Minnesota’s health care system, fewer regulations for farmers and reforms to the way the legislature is led.

The 2014 Republican nominee for governor and Hennepin County commissioner said Minnesota had one of the best health care models before the Affordable Care Act was passed. Part of the solution to soaring premiums is going back to older concepts, such as high-risk pools.

“Let’s just go back to the way it was - that allowed us to stabilize the individual market,” Johnson said. “For some of these communities in southern Minnesota, if you’re on the exchange, you literally have no choice. There’s no competition. To suggest there’s a market there, there just isn’t.”

Johnson said Minnesota should work with other states to allow purchase of insurance across state lines and encourage encourage small employers and small groups to self-insure via changes to tax law. He added that the government shouldn’t mandate certain coverage.

“If you believe the best thing for you is a limited coverage policy, government shouldn’t come in say, ‘we know better, this is what your policy should look like,”’ he said.

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Johnson spoke with farmers during Farmfest and said the biggest theme he took away was too much government.

“There seems to be a philosophy in some of our state agencies that their job is to control people as opposed to serving them and working with them,” Johnson said. “Farmers are tired of the way they’re being treated by the DNR, MPCA, BWSR.”

Johnson touched on Local Government Aid (LGA), a hot-button topic for leaders of rural cities. He said he believed the original purpose of LGA was to help smaller communities, but that purpose has been lost as millions of dollars are sent to the Twin Cities.

“They are spending a boatload of money on things that are absolutely preposterous, yet between Minneapolis, St. Paul and Duluth, they make up the majority of LGA money,” Johnson said. “That makes no sense. For me, it’s about the formula, not how much we spend overall.”

The Detroit Lakes native and Plymouth resident also touched on the workforce shortage in rural Minnesota, saying disincentives to work need to be removed. He asserted he would use his profile as governor to encourage parents and schools to explore blue-collar fields.

“There is this belief that's still pretty widespread in Minnesota that every kid needs a four-year degree to be successful,” Johnson said. “The big need that people can’t fill are people who have two-year degrees or less, that have experience with practical skills and trades.”

In terms of leading the legislature, Johnson said he would make major changes to improve transparency. He noted that although he is a strong Republican, he blames both sides for dysfunction and last-minute bills - written with just input from the leaders of both houses and the governor - that nobody has time to read before voting on them.

“I’ve been very clear I will veto omnibus bills that don’t follow the single-subject rule, regardless of which party sends it to me,” he said. “And I will not sign bills that haven’t been publicly posted for 48 hours.”

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