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Election 2022: Luverne mayor and current state representative to square off for 21A seat

Joe Schomacker and Pat Baustian will both be on the ballot in November, as they vie for the District 21A seat.

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Joe Schomacker, left, and Pat Baustian, right, both of Luverne, are running in the District 21A race.
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WORTHINGTON — Come Nov. 8, Republican Joe Schomacker will face off against DFL candidate Pat Baustian for the newly redistricted 21A Minnesota House seat.

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Schomacker has held state office as the District 22A representative since 2010, but the 2021 redrawing of district lines meant a shift in zone for the legislator.

Joining him on the ballot is Baustian, current mayor of Luverne. Also elected back in 2010, Baustian served on the Luverne City Council before becoming mayor and last year was elected president of the Coalition of Greater Minnesota Cities .

The Globe reached out to both candidates with questions on their priorities and plans ahead of the 2022 election. These are their responses:

How would you address the recent increase in gas prices?

Baustian: With the COVID shutdown of our economy in 2020, every available petroleum refinery was at capacity for storage. Once we came out of the COVID shutdown refineries were able to get back into the refining of oil. From what I've read this isn't an overnight ability. This shutdown, coupled with the vibrant surge of our local and state economy, pushed the refineries to capacity thus the supply and demand of petroleum products along with the global issues going on in our world to drive up prices. As everyone has seen crude oil prices drop, the price of gas and diesel hasn't followed suit by comparison. In May crude oil topped $109 barrel with unleaded gas peaking at $4.27 per gallon. Today crude oil is at $83 barrel with unleaded gas averaging $3.68 for the state. If unleaded prices were to follow the crude oil prices we should be seeing unleaded gas at $3.24 per gallon. Big oil experienced huge profits in the last quarterly earnings. One has to ask yourself who is making the money?

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Schomacker: Gas prices should be lowered. We need to bring back policies at the federal level that encourage energy independence. When we increase production, it increases supply and lowers the price at the pump. From the state level, if we can't agree to send the state surplus back to taxpayers directly, we should use it to pay for roads and bridges and lower the state gas tax.

How would you deal with the ongoing worker shortage in rural Minnesota

Baustian: Minnesota has experienced a worker shortage for the past ten years. Our state demographer pointed this out in a briefing I attended at a conference stating that as recent as eight years ago, for every 10 jobs available in Minnesota there were only eight workers. Today we have six workers for every 10 jobs available. The Minnesota Department of Labor tracks everyone 18 and older for employment. Rock County was recently identified as having the lowest unemployment rate in the state at just 1% and had dipped below 1% for a brief period this summer. Historically our family sizes have shrunk since 1960 and with the number of baby boomers retiring I believe we will continue to see a workforce shortage. Growing up on a farm our neighbors to the west had 11 kids, our neighbors to the east had 9 kids and our family had 7. Families just aren't having as many kids in today's world. The family size today is averaging 1.93 children under 18 versus 2.33 children per family in 1960. As you can see the future labor pool is shrinking and has shrunk for the last 60 years. We must find ways to work more efficiently where industry will allow and ensure that whoever can work does.

Schomacker: The worker shortage is a challenge throughout this country and beyond. It's coming at us in a number of ways, but it's not new. It was hard to find workers before COVID, then we had the government paying people not to work during COVID, and now the effects of the Great Resignation. Employers need to do a better job at building and encouraging their team members. The work needs to be purpose-driven. People need a purpose to want to work. No one policy is going to change that, but we can begin by allowing business owners to focus on their business. When state regulations make it harder to hire and terminate employees it makes it difficult to hire anyone you do find. And if state regulators have a more punitive role instead of supportive, we have the same problem there.

What is your stance on immigration policies, particularly regarding state laws concerning employment?

Baustian: I believe that if you look at our sheer number of workers available to work as tracked by the Minnesota Department of Labor and the increase in demand with Minnesota industries for workers, we have to look at immigration policies that make it so we have the workforce available to meet the needs of industry. We also need to ensure that those that can work do. We need to ensure that state policies and laws towards immigration aren't hindering the process of our industries in District 21A in finding workers or creating undue workforce shortage hardships. The available data for the future workforce in Minnesota has shown we have been in a decline of available workers the last 60 years and unless our families start having more children that will eventually grow up and stay in Minnesota to join the labor force here, we will continue to experience a workforce shortage. Statistics show that we are declining in available workers due to family size. If Minnesota's economy is to continue to be an economic engine in the Midwest and continue to grow, we must look at ways to bring in people that want to work and want to live in our communities, schools, and state.

Schomacker: We need more legal, law-abiding, tax paying immigrants in the state to help close some of the worker gap. That should be part of the solution there. It must be done at the federal level.

Thoughts on the recent SCOTUS overturn of Roe v. Wade, and abortion access in Minnesota?

Baustian: In June of this year the SCOTUS overturned Roe v. Wade which had been in place since 1973. Since 1995, the Minnesota Supreme Court's Doe v. Gomez decision continues to require legalized abortion in Minnesota. As a moderate Democrat I have been and still take a pro-life stance. I don't agree that abortion should be a form of birth control unless it directly involves the health of the mother.

Schomacker: I am happy to see the Supreme Court overturn Roe because states can decide their own abortion policy. Since that court decision, Minnesota courts have thrown out laws that provided mothers with more information before making this life-altering decision. I am proud to be endorsed by Minnesota Citizens Concerned for Life, and if re-elected I will commit my first vote of the new session to voting for a pro-life Speaker of the House to lead us.

Explain the No. 1 issue you see facing the district and how you will respond to it:

Baustian: I believe the biggest issue facing District 21A today and has been for over the last ten years is the critical shortage of daycare. This continues to be one of our biggest concerns for existing businesses throughout the district whether in private business, a school employee, a hospital employee, and now, more recently in the farming community. Time and time again there have been investors that have inquired about opening a daycare center, whether into an existing facility that needs remodeling or building a new facility. What is needed to pay for a facility in income versus what the local wages can afford to pay for a daycare spot is upside down for bank financing. The sheer cost of opening a daycare center is part of the problem. Another problem is the state licensure process, and another is some licensing regulations that just don’t seem to be common sense or realistic. In the metro areas, daycares can’t be built fast enough because the wages that are paid to the workforce in those areas can support the cost of the daycares being built, plus the employee salaries with benefits. In 2021, the State of Minnesota funded $2.425 million for Child Care Facility Revitalization Grants. These grant opportunities were for new or existing daycare centers and in-home family daycares. Realistically this funding level could be $50 million and still wouldn’t cover the need for daycare assistance in greater Minnesota. If elected, this problem will be one of my #1 priorities.

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Schomacker: The number one issue facing our district is the economy. It's national and international, but Minnesota contributes to the headwinds we are experiencing today. We can't spend our way into prosperity. The solution to slowing, stopping, or reversing inflation isn't to have the state spend more. That's why our state surplus should be used for long term tax relief versus new spending. The state can also encourage private investments into business and non-profits in order to lessen the impact of a deeper looming recession.

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Emma McNamee joined The Globe team in October 2021 as a reporter covering Crime & Courts, Politics, and the City beats. Born and raised in Duluth, Minn., McNamee left her hometown to attend school in Chicago at Columbia College. She graduated in 2021 with a degree in Multimedia Journalism, with a concentration in News & Feature Writing and a minor in Creative Writing.
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