Voters to decide Republican candidate in Minnesota Senate District 21 seat in Tuesday's primary election
Hutchinson is of Mountain Lake; Weber is from Luverne.
WORTHINGTON — Two candidates will vie for the Republican nomination in the Minnesota Senate District 21 race on Aug. 9.
Incumbent Bill Weber faces challenger Brad Hutchinson. Both answered questions posed by The Globe about issues impacting southwest Minnesota, and how they plan to address them.
How would you address the recent increase in gas prices?
Hutchinson: The increase we are seeing in gas prices, and inflation in general, is caused primarily by two things: Our government has been printing and borrowing far too much money, and they are over-regulating our own domestic energy production. This gives us the combination of having more dollars to spend with fewer resources to buy.
In less than two years, we went from being energy independent to where our President now goes to Saudi Arabia and elsewhere begging them to drill for more oil. So, our President and other national leaders who have overspent our way to this point shoulder most of the blame here.
But our own state politicians are also at fault. They passed laws that force us to invest in more wind and solar, while discouraging the use of fossil fuels. These laws and mandates further discourage our nation’s oil exploration, because companies aren’t going to invest money in a long-term oil development project when they are being told there will be no market for their product in just a few short years. State lawmakers have also prohibited any new nuclear development, which forces us to depend even more on fossil fuels, further draining our supply for gasoline, fertilizer, etc.
The solution to all of this is quite simple. We must quit allowing our politicians the ability to limit our freedom to produce the energy we need.
Weber: There is little the state can do about gas prices. Our main impact is the gas tax. Fortunately, the legislature did not go along with Gov. Walz when he wanted to raise it substantially. Now he talks about a holiday, but remember that the gas tax goes into the Highway Users Trust Fund, which finances road and bridge repair. Keeping money from that account will only worsen our road conditions and create a greater future expense.
How will you deal with the ongoing worker shortage in rural Minnesota?
Hutchinson: The worker shortage we are experiencing is largely caused by our current government policies, and changing those policies would solve much of the problem.
For example, we have far too many people employed by the government. In Minnesota, more than one in seven employees works for the government at some level. While most businesses have learned to do more with fewer employees, our government keeps growing, sometimes adding staff even as the population they serve is decreasing. Our local farmers are great examples of increasing productivity. With our advances in technology and better equipment, our government should be able to do the same.
Another way government action has made this problem worse is by decreasing the incentive to work. Our COVID-19 response of paying people not to work continues even today. In a time when employers cannot find employees, we have legislators trying to extend the amount of time allowed to receive unemployment benefits. Just the opposite should be taking place. Other welfare-related programs should also be changed, with a work requirement added whenever feasible.
The list of failed government interference in the workforce could go on and on, including our high tax rates and the actions our government has taken that have increased our fuel costs. These increased costs make all work less valuable, but they hit lower-paying and part-time jobs especially hard, and these are some of the jobs most difficult to fill in rural Minnesota.
Weber: There are a couple of components to this issue. First, skilled trades people. We started to promote programs in the secondary school system a few years ago which are leading to increased enrollments for tradespeople needed for construction, mechanics, plumbing, electrical, etc. Our MnSCU system and local schools are working closely in many communities to make this happen. With the competition present from other states which border us, we will need to increase our efforts to train and keep workers in Minnesota. As to general labor jobs, some of the issue for the past two years is that it has been proven we cannot afford to shut down businesses and pay people to stay home. The cost of this action, which really did nothing to protect anyone, will be felt for many years to come.
Your stance on immigration policies, particularly regarding state laws concerning employment?
Hutchinson: First of all, our current immigration laws need to be enforced. The number of illegal immigrants crossing our southern border is a disgrace, and it is putting citizens in danger. While we are certainly a nation of immigrants, we still need to have the ability and the will to control who enters our country. As things stand right now, not only are we allowing illegal entry, but we are also allowing a large importation of drugs that are ruining lives and communities.
Our state laws concerning employment should be relatively straightforward. If an immigrant has entered our country legally, say with an education or work visa, then we should be as accommodating as possible to allow them to stay and to apply for citizenship if they desire. If they have entered our country illegally, then they are rightly termed criminals, and they should be deported.
This might seem harsh, but how can we expect U.S. citizens to be law-abiding when our government officials simply pick and choose which laws to enforce?
If we as a people believe our immigration laws need to be relaxed, then let’s do that. To accomplish this, we must either convince our representatives to act or replace them in November. Until then, government leaders and prosecutors who ignore our current written law should be removed from their positions.
Weber: Obviously, immigration laws are federal issues. Unfortunately, the current administration in D.C. has an open border policy, which is endangering immigrants with human trafficking and allowing illegal drugs to enter this country freely. As a state, we should take whatever steps possible to discourage this type of action. There are legal programs that allow foreign workers to be here, particularly in the agricultural field through the H2A Visa program. Currently, the Minnesota Dept. of Labor and Industry has made it more difficult to use this program and there are a variety of measures administratively that need to be taken to allow greater utilization of such programs.
Thoughts on the recent SCOTUS overturn of Roe v. Wade, and abortion access in Minnesota?
Hutchinson: I believe overturning Roe was a gift to our nation. Not because I believe we should pass a law that outlaws all abortions, but because this ruling returns these decisions to the people themselves. As citizens, we should be able to determine what laws we choose to live under, rather than having them decided by judges.
This ruling has already promoted more thought and discussions, which we need more of to determine what laws we want in place as they relate to abortion. While I am pro-life, I don’t believe a complete ban on all abortions is widely supported. For that reason, I wouldn’t pursue such a ban. However, I do believe there is a wide acceptance for many restrictions. Those areas where we can largely agree must be further determined, and that is where our legislation should be focused.
We should have similar discussions regarding other human rights issues. For instance, while slavery was ended years ago after fighting a brutal Civil War, many of our products and businesses still depend on foreign nations where people are not free, and where slavery and forced labor are still practiced. How is that any different than holding those slaves here on our own plantations?
This is a travesty that needs to be discussed. It not only perpetuates slavery overseas, it also takes opportunity, jobs and prosperity away from people who are free, lining the pockets of those who prefer cheap, foreign, even enslaved labor.
Weber: While pro-abortion people are using the overturn of Roe v. Wade as a fundraising tool, the reality in Minnesota is that the Doe v. Gomez decision some years ago in the state supreme court protects abortion through case law. Nothing will change based on the supreme court decision. What it does mean is that our role as a legislature is to build a commonsense consensus on how we best protect life at all stages and continue to support women, children and families.
Explain the No. 1 issue you see facing the district and how you will respond to it:
Hutchinson: For every other issue discussed here, it is actions taken by government that have either caused the problem or made it worse. Because of this, my priority as your State Senator is to reduce the size and scope of government.
When two citizens make a transaction or an agreement, they do so willingly because both believe they are receiving something of value. While the same is true when two politicians make an agreement, their agreement generally comes at the expense of someone else. They are either spending more of your tax dollars or limiting your freedom.
This is why we cannot have people like Bill Weber representing us in St. Paul. When he first campaigned for the Senate 10 years ago, he highlighted the importance of compromise to achieve common goals. Compromise for politicians is their way of making an agreement, and it almost always results in more taxes and more government intrusion into our lives. We don’t need compromise. We need leaders who will always support our God-given freedom, while strongly enforcing laws that punish those who do harm to someone else.
Business owners know better than our politicians how to run their business. Local school teachers and administrators know more about what works best in their classrooms than distant politicians and educational professionals. Parents love their children far more than the politicians who dictate where and when they will attend school. Individuals are smart enough to decide whether wearing a mask is beneficial. Caring adults can weigh their own risk when deciding whether to visit grandma in the nursing home one final time.
Many of the freedoms we gave up over the last two years came directly from Gov. Walz using his emergency executive authority. But that authority was given to him by our legislators, who worked long and hard at compromise this spring. Those compromises did nothing to prevent this type of dictatorial rule in the future. Your freedom, beginning with reigning in executive powers, will be my top priority as your State Senator.
Weber: Currently, economics is the main issue in front of us. Inflation is nothing but a tax on us all but it hits the low-income and fixed-income people the hardest. The unfortunate thing is that the current administration in D.C. is doing everything possible to fuel inflation, not reduce it. Besides lack of workers, housing for workers is a major problem. The current governor wants more housing infrastructure bonds but they provide limited help. Worthington had to return a grant because even with a substantial grant amount, the housing market could not make a project work due to the rules of Minnesota. There is a large disconnect between how programs work for urban and greater Minnesota and the current administration does not seem to care about solving that disconnect. One example is how prevailing wage is figured and applied. We need substantial change in St. Paul to bring about a commonsense solution that works for all Minnesotans. There may need to be different solutions for different areas, but so be it. What the current administration is doing is not working!
NOTE: Some responses were trimmed to adhere to the word count given to candidates.