2022 Pelican Rapids Press Candidate Questionaire

Jeff Backer

Top priority: If elected, what is your top priority for the 2023 Legislature?

We need to take a hard look at the economy. Consumer costs are skyrocketing, and hard-working Minnesotans are getting stuck with the bill. Add that to a high tax burden, and you have a recipe for real economic hardship. Many folks are budgeting for next week’s groceries or wondering whether their tank of gas will hold through the rest of the month. Cutting taxes is a way to begin offsetting some of that burden. We also need to take a closer look at the regulatory load that’s crushing our business communities. Reducing that burden would give businesses the resources and flexibility they need to grow and prosper.

Why are you running for office?

As a State Representative, my goal is to have a meaningful and positive impact on people’s lives. It’s rewarding to hear from constituents and know that their voices are being heard in St. Paul. Unfortunately, I can’t change the policies coming out of Washington, but with a Republican majority in the House of Representatives, we can pursue some practical solutions at the state level that will help a lot of fellow Minnesotans.

Gridlock: Legislature gridlock has become the norm. And, increasingly, the final deals on major bills are forged by the Governor, House Speaker and Senate Majority Leader will little or no input by rank-and-file legislators. What specific measures can be taken to reduce the increasing partisanship of the lawmaking process?

Despite an increasingly polarized political environment, there are many consensus issues that should draw broad, bipartisan support. For example, our state is running a massive budget surplus right now. That means taxpayers have been overcharged. None of us should be ok with that. We need to start putting that money back where it belongs, in the pockets of hard-working Minnesotans. Politicians on both sides of the aisle need to set aside their pet projects and get that done for the people of our state.

We also need to change the way we conduct business at the House. In 1972, over 800 bills were signed into law. Last year, it was down to just 35 bills. We need to honor our State’s constitution and adopt House rules that focus on moving individual bills through the process.

Elections: Do you believe that voting improprieties are a problem in Minnesota?  Are there changes in election practices you would favor?

Historically, changes in Minnesota election law have been approved by the legislature in a bipartisan manner. But in many recent instances, changes to election procedures were made unilaterally by governors or secretaries of states via emergency powers and without the input of elected representatives. Reforms to emergency powers authority in Minnesota should make sure that the governor or any other official cannot make unilateral changes to election procedures in our state.

There are also a number of common sense reforms that we should consider. Implementing Voter ID statewide, verifying new registrations before ballots are counted, banning ballot harvesting, and increasing penalties for voter fraud are some of the safeguards that have helped ensure fair, open, and transparent elections in other states.

Budget: The 2023 Legislature will convene with a significant surplus. How should the money be used with respect to spending and/or tax relief? Be specific.

Politicians love to spend other people’s money, but we need to remember where this surplus money came from in the first place: Minnesota taxpayers. So instead of blowing it on wasteful government programs, I’d like to see a big chunk of it returned to the people who were overcharged in the first place. We should also look at meaningful options like tax relief, re-funding our law enforcement professionals, and investing in quality care facilities for our elderly communities.

Education/employment: Are Minnesota’s K-12 and higher ed systems prepared to address the workforce dynamics in a post-COVID era? What specific changes are necessary?

Currently, students in Minneapolis and St. Paul receive more funding than those in greater Minnesota. That’s not right. Our young people deserve the same funding as any other student in the state, and that money should follow the student rather than the school. We should also encourage students to consider vocational training. Traditional 4-year college degrees are the best fit for some students, but trade schools should also be promoted as a viable path to many productive and profitable careers.

Health care: The overturning of Roe vs. Wade by the U.S. Supreme Court has put abortion law back in the hands of state legislatures. Do you support any specific changes to state law?

I am committed to protecting life from conception to natural death. We all know that medicine, however well practiced, has limitations, and there are difficult cases where a baby’s life may be lost in the process of saving the expectant mother’s life. But rather than intentionally extinguishing the life of an unborn child, we should respect the sanctity of life at every stage and advocate for pro-family policies and opportunities that will encourage moms and families who need a hand in challenging circumstances.

Transportation: Is state transportation funding properly balanced between roads and bridges and mass transit? If not, what changes do you propose?

We need to stop wasting money on light rail. Those funds would be much better spent on improving local roads and lowering property taxes. I also support reallocating the tax dollars generated by auto parts sales so that 100% of those funds are directed to maintaining our state’s infrastructure. Currently, 50% of those tax dollars are dedicated to roads and bridges. Increasing that to 100% would add about $200 million per year to address transportation needs.

Police reform: Proposed police reform stalled in the Legislature. Should additional initiatives be pursued?

Violent crime has skyrocketed under Governor Walz and Democrat leadership. Walz-appointed judges routinely give violent criminals a slap on the wrist, and sentencing guidelines commission actively work to reduce sentences for repeat criminals. I’ve spent the last 27 years serving as a volunteer EMT for the Browns Valley Ambulance, and developed many close relationships with law enforcement. I am ready to lead the next session with major investments in public safety and stronger penalties for repeat and violent criminals so we can stop the Democrats’ revolving door that’s fueling Minnesota’s crime crisis.

Public notices: Some local government bodies continue to push for the elimination of state requirements to publish public notices, except on government websites. Independent research continues to show that far more citizens see public notices when they are published in the newspapers/on newspaper websites that they already use regularly. What’s your view on publication of important legal notices only by local government body websites?

Trust is based on honesty and transparency. The easier it is for people to see what’s going on, the easier it is to maintain that public trust. Eroding that confidence by eliminating the current state requirement seems unnecessary and potentially damaging. Unless there are specific reasons and broad support for the proposed changes, it seems prudent to avoid them.

Other issues: Are there other issues you want to address?

There’s been a lot of talk about healthcare over recent years. What was originally billed as “affordable” has turned out to be the exact opposite for all too many people. We need to revisit this issue, this time focusing on competition across state lines which drives down prices while preserving consumer choice and freedom. We also need to take a serious look at the regulatory burden we’ve placed on our farmers and small business owners. Onerous and outdated regulations need to be lifted so that our agriculture and business communities can focus on industry rather than bureaucracy.

Briefly summarize your personal background and qualifications.

As a small business owner of 32 years and a volunteer EMT of 27 years for the Browns Valley Ambulance Service, I’ve learned to prioritize customer and patents concerns and put the needs of others first. These are some of the skills that translate directly into my work as a state representative. My constituents are the people closest to the issues that need to be solved. By listening to their ideas and acting on their concerns, I can work for results that will have the most meaningful impact on their lives.