Poppe: House needs thoughtful decision- makers

Published 11:01 am Sunday, November 6, 2016

Rep. Jeanne Poppe, DFL-Austin, says there is a lot of work pending in the Minnesota Legislature and she has the experience and sensibility to get it done.

Health insurance, a bonding bill, education and infrastructure are all issues to be tackled in the next session, she said during a campaign stop last week.

Poppe said she has the right tools to fix problems.



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“I am a thoughtful decision-maker, a strategic problem-solver,” she said. “I think I can look at an issue from all sides and gain perspective.”

Poppe, 59, a former Austin City Council member, is seeking her seventh term to the Minnesota House of Representatives and will face Republican Dennis Schminke in the polls on Tuesday.

She is a counselor at Riverland Community College and lives in Austin with her husband, Bob. They are the parents of three children.

The skyrocketing cost of healthcare is a priority issue to be addressed, she said. Some residents are facing double-digit hikes in premiums, are struggling with prescriptions and preventative care issues, and have watched insurers drop from the market.

Poppe agreed there are a lot of fixes to be considered — but scrapping MNsure, the state’s healthcare market exchange, should not be one of them.

“We don’t want to throw the baby out with the bath water,” she said. “There are, certainly, things that need to be fixed and now, before the election, during this enrollment period” there is an intensity in the conversation.

But a step back is needed to logically evaluate what is working and what is not, she added.

Some fixes to be considered could include incentives for insurers to stay in the market, provisions for tax credits, or reduce deductibles.

A bonding bill will take on more importance this session. Miscommunication, mixed with the omission of a number of already-agreed upon items, brought the old bill to its knees. The 2016 bill also contained items that should not have been included at all, but in the transportation bill, she said.

“The (bonding) bill was fraught with millions of dollars in mistakes,” she said.

Fixing infrastructure is also a major issue facing Minnesotans and the challenge of the upcoming session will be determining how to fund the transportation needs on a sustainable basis.

“This is a statewide issue that affects everyone,” she said, adding she supports an increase in the gas tax, a user fee that would help fix funding for road and bridge repair. Others have argued for a one-time infusion of funding, but that is not a good plan for the future, she said.

Poppe said developing a multi-modal approach to meet the transportation needs of citizens — different for millennials than for the older population — is the best way to go. The hotly-contested light rail, for instance, is just one option.

Poppe is a lifelong educator who said she will keep fighting to keep college tuition costs down and make sure the state’s public schools have enough funding to keep pace with need.

The upcoming session will be filled with tough issues, but she said she is ready for the job and has the ability to work with both sides of the aisle to get things done.

Poppe has also served in both the House majority and minority and is proud of the fact that one of her favorite victories — making sure a child restraint law was attached and passed as an amendment to an elder care bill — came amid a Republican majority.

“I think that was my proudest moment,” she said.