Candidates for House 28B seat outline priorities if elected


Thomas Trehus

Greg Davids

The race for Minnesota House seat in District 28B is a repeat from 2016 as Thomas Trehus of Spring Grove is challenging Rep. Greg Davids, R-Preston.

The candidates responded to written questions from Bluff Country Newspaper Group. Their written answers follow.

Top priority: If elected, what is your top priority for the 2019 Legislature? Why are you running for office?

Davids: To continue helping and serving the good people of Fillmore and Houston counties and bringing their needs to the State Capitol. The last two-year cycle may have been our most successful in recent memory. Not only did we lower health care premiums for those buying insurance on the individual market, but we also passed historic tax relief and increased statewide road and bridge funding without raising taxes or fees. I'm ready to help continue these success stories.

This year's top priority will continue to be making health care more affordable. We made great progress in this area last session, passing new laws that lower premium rates for those purchasing health insurance on the individual market and finally ended the double-digit increases they had experienced every year since the implementation of Obamacare. We also provided more choices by bringing more competition into the market, ended surprise billing and provided better access to care. We're off to a great start, but there's still more work to be done.

Trehus: I grew up volunteering and serving in my community, I want to continue down that path. I respect Rep. Davids’ 13 terms, but it’s time for a change. We need to crack down on health insurance companies and pharmaceutical companies who are bankrupting our neighbors and our government, while fueling our politicians’ re-election bank accounts. We must provide another health care option for our small business people, farmers, and those working several part-time jobs. In 2017, Rep. Davids gave insurance companies $542 million in taxpayer dollars with no strings attached. Even with this taxpayer handout, most Minnesotans will see an increase in premiums, rather than a decrease. We need to begin fixing healthcare immediately next session.

Gridlock: The 2018 Legislature adjourned without addressing key items including a tax conformity bill. End-of-session gridlock is becoming a recurring theme at the Capitol. What specific measures do you support to increase the transparency and reduce the increasing partisan deadlock of the lawmaking process? Do you support reforms that would prohibit consolidating multiple subjects into a single omnibus bill?

Davids: I've always said making laws should not be easy. People have differing views, and many times in St. Paul they are expressed strongly. That's why it's so important to have strong working relationships with both Democrats and Republicans. In the House Taxes Committee that I chair, I have one simple rule: Democrat bills are always debated first, as I believe everyone's voice should be heard equally. Doing so often relieves partisan tensions that can build up in committee, and it may be a top reason why our tax relief legislation is almost always approved with bipartisan support.

Trehus: I will stand up and fight the current model of partisan gridlock and gamesmanship in St. Paul. This game of waiting until the final hours of session to pass major bills is ridiculous. The current process is ineffective and it leads to corruption. There should be at least a 24-hour waiting period before bills can be voted on. Nobody can read 989 pages of text in 3.5 hours, as was attempted this past session in St. Paul. Regarding the huge omnibus “garbage bills” we’ve been seeing at the Capitol, they are unconstitutional. Period. Elected officials are not above the state constitution. Term-limits would help the process in many ways. Legislators who have been in office for over 10, 20, or even 30 years have a difficult time understanding the reality of the people they represent. Term-limits could also help reduce the amount of partisanship we see in our Legislature.

Education, K-12: Is the K-12 system adequately funded? If not, how would you pay for more funding?

Davids: Worth noting: Under Republican leadership at the Capitol, record amounts of funding are now being put into K-12 education. That is a fact. The problem is ensuring that our rural schools get their fair share, and that any new money makes its way into the classroom. As a former teacher, I understand the challenges our rural schools and teachers face and have done the heavy lifting on the House side for many education proposals over the years. This is why I have been endorsed by Education Minnesota 13 times. If I am fortunate enough to be re-elected, I will continue to work with our rural schools and bring their concerns to the Capitol, and find more ways to ensure southeastern Minnesota schools are getting the resources they need to succeed.

Trehus: No. We need to fully fund and support our public schools, while helping reduce the burden of unfunded mandates. We should give more flexibility to teachers and school districts, in regards to both financial and policy decisions. If the state continues to be blessed with a strong economy, we should continue to invest a portion of our surplus in areas like E-12 education. These key investments will continue to pay off in future generations.

Transportation: What is your preference for raising additional money for roads and bridges: Dedicating transportation-related money from the general fund, such as the sales tax on auto parts, or raising the gas tax? Or is current funding sufficient?

Davids: It's worth reminding folks that during our last session, Republican and Democratic lawmakers approved a law that makes the largest investment in road and bridge infrastructure in state history without raising gasoline taxes. Because of this, billions of dollars will be invested into transportation needs over the next decade using existing funds, and I'm proud we were able to make this reality as it was easily one of our top success stories over the past two years. Dedicating transportation-related money to transportation projects is just good common sense.

Trehus: We are not doing enough to maintain our roads and bridges in this state. Despite being promised a transportation bill in Washington, D.C., we are once again stuck with finding our own sources of revenue here in Minnesota. I would prefer not to take money from the general fund to fund transportation, but all options are on the table when it comes to budgeting. Campaigning against a gas-tax increase would be the more popular thing to do, but it must be on the table if we are to be honest about funding transportation. We deserve safe roads.

Energy: Should Minnesota increase its renewable energy mandates on utilities, or is current law sufficient?

Davids: I have been a supporter of renewable energy in the past, as it is good for our farmers, our agricultural economy, and our environment, and have carried a number of renewable bills over the years. However, one thing everyone should keep in mind is that if you force utilities to use more renewable energy, and if that energy costs more — and it almost always does — the utility company is not going to simply shrug its shoulders and accept that financial loss. It will inevitably pass this increased cost onto the consumer, meaning higher utility bills locally. If a new renewable mandate comes forward I will certainly give it careful consideration, but it's worth remembering that positive and negative outcomes could result from it

Trehus: We need to achieve a renewable energy standard of at least 50 percent by 2030. Minnesota can be a leader in renewable energy. It’s not only better for the air, water and earth, it is a tremendous economic opportunity for our entire state.

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

Davids: In this new era where partisan politics has become toxic at times, residents should know my goal has always been to find bipartisan solutions wherever possible. My job isn't to represent my political party, it is to represent everyone in our district regardless of their political affiliation. Moving forward, I will continue seeking ways allowing you to keep more of what you earn while increasing funding to our schools, improving our roads and bridges, and strengthening our rural economy. I humbly ask for your vote on Nov. 6.

Trehus: A state not doing its job in keeping up with LGA, CPA and Township Aid. A workforce shortage, especially in senior care and services for those with disabilities. A lack of childcare for working parents. A system that is rigged against small businesses and small to medium sized farms. Low commodity prices and increasing input costs for farmers. I will fight to keep seniors safe and increase in-home care for seniors. I will work to make sure our nursing homes have the support needed to allow our seniors to live with respect and dignity.

I have personally spoken with thousands of voters and will continue to listen to Fillmore and Houston County residents. I will not be a legislator just focused on re-election, I will be a legislator focused on representing YOU. I won’t make you come to St. Paul to talk to me, I will be in your town and township.

Briefly summarize your personal background and qualifications.

Davids: I have lived in Fillmore County nearly my entire life, have been married to Bonnie for 39 years, have three adult daughters, and three grandsons. In addition to serving as your state representative, my wife and I own the family farm. I have been a financial planner since 1982, and am a former teacher and mayor of Preston.

Having seniority in the majority caucus, as well as serving as the chairman of the House Taxes Committee means the needs of Fillmore and Houston counties are always prioritized. I have been honored to carry countless laws that benefit our area, including our new Fillmore County veterans home and veterans cemetery, my “Good Neighbor” policy that allows local communities to benefit from Rochester's sales tax, income tax reciprocity with Wisconsin and many more. I know how to work with both Democrats and Republicans to move good policies forward, and hope to continue this progress.

Trehus: I live on my fifth generation family farm outside of Spring Grove. My father and I farm corn and beans. Growing up we also raised beef cattle. I graduated from Spring Grove High School in 2009 and the University of Minnesota - Twin Cities in 2012, with a B.A. in political science. I currently serve on the Spring Grove School Board and teach part-time while I campaign for State House. I serve as vice president of my local Sons of Norway, coach high school speech, and I am a certified firearm safety instructor. Previously I worked in the U.S. Senate as a staff member. Please email me or call me if you have any questions. My email is trehusforhouse@gmail.com and my cell is 507-251-3584.