District 8 Republican State Sen. Bill Ingebrigtsen of Alexandria; Shawn Olson, Alexandria, DFL candidate for lthe District 8 State Senate seat; Distict 8A Republican State Rep. Bud Nornes of Fergus Falls; and DFL House challenger C.J. Holl
The candidate forum at A Center for the Arts, Fergus Falls, Oct. 14, was sponsored and organized by the Fergus Falls Area Chamber of Commerce.

By Tom Hintgen

Otter Tail Correspondent

Candidates for Minnesota Senate District 8 and State House District 8A all agree that maintaining roadways in Otter Tail County and across the state needs to be addressed.

Incumbent State Sen. Bill Ingebrigtsen, opposed by Shawn Olson, and incumbent State Rep. Bud Nornes, opposed by C.J. Holl, addressed transportation and roadway maintenance Friday, Oct. 14, during a noon candidate forum at A Center for the Arts, Fergus Falls.

The gathering was sponsored and organized by the Fergus Falls Area Chamber of Commerce.

Incumbents Ingebrigtsen and Nornes, both Republicans, prefer to supply transportation dollars from the state general fund. They both oppose increasing the state gasoline tax.

The current state tax on gasoline is 28.5 cents. A proposal by Senate Democrats to raise the tax by 16 cents, to 44.5 cents in order to fund more road projects, was turned down by legislators.

House Republicans, in turn, proposed that roadway projects come from the general fund and using bonding and initiation of new license tab fees.

“Otter Tail County has 1,017 miles of roads but there is limited funding and a growing list of roads that are in poor shape,” said State House challenger Holl. “It doesn’t get cheaper in the future, and with growth throughout the county we need to keep our basic infrastructure sound.”

DFLer Holl said all transportation funding options should be on the table, including more dollars coming from the general fund and/or increasing the state gasoline tax.

Senate challenger Olson, also a DFLer, said Minnesota hasn’t adequately funded roadway projects since the days of Democratic Gov. Rudy Perpich who left office in 1991. Olson sees the need for lawmakers to prioritize and pass a solid 10-year transportation bill.

Other issues addressed

All four candidates, Senate candidates Ingebrigtsen and Olson and House candidates Nornes and Holl, agree that the state legislature can do more to assist small businesses in Otter Tail County and across the state.

Ingebrigtsen said the legislature needs to enact zero-based budgeting. This process involves preparation of a fresh budget every year without reference to the past.

Olson sees the need for lawmakers to address the need for increasing wages across the state.

“The median wage has been going down, and that needs to change,” said Olson.

Nornes sees top priorities for the 2017 state legislature as education, health, agriculture and the need to hold the line on taxes.

Holl addressed education and reiterated previous campaign statements that flat state funding or very small single-digit increases don’t allow area schools to be competitive.

“We’re funding our schools, both K-12 and higher ed, at levels adjusted for inflation of the late 1980s,” he said. “We can do better for our kids.”

More about the candidates

State Sen. Bill Ingebrigtsen of Alexandria is a former sheriff. He serves District 8 that includes both Douglas and Otter Tail counties. He was first elected to the state legislature in 2006.

Senate challenger Shawn Olson is a native of Alexandria. He has worked as a field archaeologist and small business owner.

State Rep. Bud Nornes of Fergus Falls is a former radio station owner. He was first elected to the state legislature in 1996. His District 8A territory includes Pelican Rapids, Perham, Fergus Falls, Battle Lake and rural areas of Otter Tail County.

House challenger C.J. Holl owns several businesses including Subway franchises and a family snack business, Pelican Pete’s Pistachios, in Pelican Rapids.