Bennett seeking re-election to state House; Incumbent zeros in on health care

Published 10:16 am Tuesday, October 25, 2016



The incumbent District 27A representative wants to address large increases in health care costs.

“The high costs of health care and health insurance are a huge burden,” said Peggy Bennett, who is running for re-election against DFL candidate Gary Schindler. “We have a real crisis in our state with the rising cost of health insurance.”

Bennett said hundreds of thousands of middle-class people in Minnesota are seeing health insurance premiums increase from $1,200 a month to $2,400 a month in addition to the $8,000-12,000 they pay in deductibles.

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“Who can afford increases like this?” she said. “Many families are having to drop their health insurance altogether.”

She said the problems the Affordable Care Act has federally and at the state level are a perfect example of “why we cannot have one-party rule jam things down people’s throats.”

“Issues that affect huge swaths of our society, like health care, must be accomplished in a bipartisan way,” she said. “Many legislators were telling the authors and those who voted for these programs that they would not work, and now it has come to pass.”

Bennett said legislators have worked on short- and long-term fixes to the crisis.

“We need a good, bipartisan fix for this, and we need it soon,” she said.

Bennett thinks creating jobs, lowering taxes and investing in infrastructure are other top issues facing the state.

“High taxes are making us less competitive for business, as well as a huge weight on hard-working families and individuals,” she said.

Bennett said the region’s crumbling infrastructure needs to be addressed.

“We need to have a long-term plan that includes adequate funding as well as reform in expensive mandates that bring up the cost of construction,” she said.

Bennett said the state needs a long-term, comprehensive transportation plan, such as what was passed in the House last year.

“This plan included multiple funding sources and also brought much needed dollars to our rural cities with populations under 5,000 — communities which get left out of transportation funding,” she said. “In a time of huge tax surplus, we don’t need to tax people more, and this plan funded all of our transportation needs without raising the gas tax.”

She said reforms are needed for expensive state mandates — such as prevailing wage — that she said suck up a lot of the state’s transportation dollars.

“Our tax dollars should be used efficiently and wisely,” she said.

Reaching out to constituents

Bennett said one of her favorite things about being a representative is hearing from people in the district.

“I have made a point throughout my almost two years as your state representative to attend many community events, as well as seek out people in various sectors, from farmers to county social workers, in order to learn about the issues,” she said.

Bennett said when major legislation is introduced, she talks to people who will be affected by it to understand how the legislation will affect the area.

“I plan to continue all of these efforts to remain in contact with my constituents,” she said.

Working with others

Bennett said she has a long history of working with teachers, parents, students and other people during her 33 years of being a first-grade teacher.

“And I have been able to continue that legacy as a legislator,” she said. “I enjoy working with and listening to people from all walks of life and both sides of the aisle, and I keep an open mind and value all viewpoints as an opportunity to learn.”

She said good legislation should pass, regardless of if it is proposed by a Republican or a Democrat.

“People should always come before politics in my mind, so putting politics aside is easy for me,” she said.

Workforce housing

Bennett said the Legislature invested $40.6 million in new funding for broadband — more than $100 million when combined with federal money — to connect unserved and underserved communities in Minnesota.

“We also passed some good reform to greatly reduce costs for local broadband projects,” she said. “I am OK with putting some funds into broadband, because I believe it is important for all communities to have adequate internet.”

Bennett said tax money needs to be spent efficiency, and she wants to keep in mind new technology that would most likely make burying cable obsolete.

“How many horses should we invest in when the Model A is two years away,” she said.

She thinks workforce housing is an important issue for smaller, rural communities and she said she is willing to work to secure grants or tax credits.

“However, these fixes are really a band-aid on a bigger problem,” Bennett said. “We need to get to the foundational issues and have an overall plan of reform that addresses high taxes and overregulation, which makes us uncompetitive as a state, and we need to reform our colleges so we can prepare people for the many open jobs that are already here.”

She said taking care of the root issues will increase workforce housing by developing a robust market.


Bennett said her experience as an educator has made her understand the importance of education.

She said she supported and voted for $600 million in new education funding, which included historic early-learning investments.

“Education should be funded smartly, and get down as close to the classroom level as possible so those who know our children — school boards, teachers, parents and administrators — can choose how to spend that money — not state or federal government,” she said.

Bennett supports two education bills that passed  — bills that she authored and co-authored  — that she said instructed the Department of Education to reduce special education paperwork by 50 percent and reduced the over-testing of students.

Bennett said the bills were “a start in this direction, but more needs to be done.”

She called the Legislature’s freezing or lowering tuition at two- and four-year Minnesota colleges beneficial to students.

“We must get to the root cause of the huge tuition increases we’ve seen in colleges, which are increasing at a much faster rate than inflation,” she said, adding that reforms are needed in higher-education programming in order to meet the growing needs of open local-trade jobs.


Bennett said she has gained experience and knowledge about how the system works, government dysfunction and how to pass good legislation over her two years in the Legislature.

“There has been a lot to learn,” she said. “I will use what I’ve learned the last two years to help me work even harder on the important issues for all of us, as well as to craft some government reform ideas I have with the goal of making government more efficient, transparent and work better for the people.”

Attracting business

Bennett thinks tax and over-regulation policies in Minnesota have stopped new businesses from entering the state and are preventing local businesses from expanding. She supports targeted business tax and regulation relief.

“We must have a competitive business climate with states like Iowa and the Dakotas,” she said. “The Legislature started this last year with some unemployment insurance payment reform, but we need to continue those initiatives with reforms like phasing out the statewide business property tax and more.”

Bennett supports cutting regulations that are not serving their intended purpose and making sure new regulations — especially environmental regulations — are based on peer-reviewed science and with the cost to taxpayers in mind.

“Our state government has a lot of regulations, and many more have never been checked to see if they are actually working,” she said.

About Sam Wilmes

Sam Wilmes covers crime, courts and government for the Albert Lea Tribune.

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