Schminke hoping for a chance to be change

Published 11:01 am Sunday, November 6, 2016

Over the course of his campaign seeking a seat in Minnesota’s House District 27B, Dennis Schminke’s approach has changed.

As Schminke readies for Tuesday’s rematch against incumbent Rep. Jeanne Poppe, DFL-Austin, he’s looking at what he calls the DFL’s recent mistakes and talking of the need for a change in leadership.

“This election needs to be accountability,” he said.

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Early in his campaign, Schminke spoke of running to help ensure a prosperous future for his children and soon to be nine grandchildren.

But Schminke’s focus has pivoted, especially as more and more issues have come up with the state’s health insurance exchange, MNsure, which is seeing premium increases, among other issues. MNsure is one way Schminke has tried to show how his and Poppe’s philosophies differ; and, he’s looking to hold Poppe and the DFL accountable for what he describes as costly mistakes.



Schminke noted the MNsure bill passed with no Republican votes or amendments.

“It’s a triumph of ideology over reality,” he said. “Everything that has gone wrong with it was predicted from the start.”

MNsure is the chief example of high-priced missteps by state DFL leaders Schminke has highlighted in the last days of his campaign.

On the big, issues, Schminke noted most in both parties often agree on many things: We need good education, we need good transportation and we need to care for those who can’t care for themselves. But Schminke argued he’d bring a different approach to St. Paul

He accused Poppe of seeing spending money as an accomplishment, while he said it was more an activity. He argued he’d support more legislative oversight, as he noted he’s a supporter of the legislative auditor’s office to look at how much and where money is spent.

He promised that he’d bring a different approach than “business as usual.”

“If you want to do something different, I’m about doing something different,” he said.

On the campaign trail, MNsure has been one of voters’ biggest concerns, as many people are seeing extreme premium increases. Another big concern has been property taxes, especially for the ag and business communities, as the state’s taxes for both are high based on national standards, Schminke argued.

Many of the problems with MNsure, Schminke argued, have been predicted since it passed with broad Republican disapproval and no GOP amendments.

Looking ahead, Schminke cautioned the best fixes for MNsure are still probably going to be bad. He’d like to see more GOP-led provisions worked in, potentially some hearkening back to the pre-MNsure days. He argued the prior systems, like Minnesota Care and Minnesota Comprehensive Health Association (MCHA), may have been better than MNsure.

In the wake of the Supreme Court decisions around the issue, Schminke argued it may make more sense to shut the state-run MNsure program and enroll people in the federal system under the Affordable Care Act, commonly called Obamacare.

“We’re throwing a lot of money at MNsure,” he said.

Schminke also questioned metro DFL’s focus on light rail projects.

He targeted light rail as the main sticking point that derailed the 2016 bonding bill, as the bill failed late on the last day of session over a disagreement over a late addition of southwest light rail funding. Schminke said DFL Gov. Mark Dayton and Twin Cities-centric Democrats — admitting he can’t lay this at Poppe’s feet — let the bonding bill fail over the light rail interests, which Republicans maintain is the cause of the bill’s demise. Democrats have argued otherwise.

Schminke argues lawmakers had all summer to work out the issues and couldn’t, with the big sticking point being the light rail project.

“Everything else could have been worked out,” he said.

Schminke called Twin Cities light rail projects an unwise investments for the state. The state general fund subsidizes the light rail program’s losses, and Schminke argued the losses from the existing lines and two more light rail projects would institutionalize multi-million dollar mistakes for every year moving forward.

Schminke said the DFL has called light rail and investment, but he argued it’s not an investment like a company would make —an investment made with the expectation to earn the invested money back along with a profit.

“It never returns a nickel,” Schminke said. “And worse than that, it costs the state $100 million a year — forever.”

Schminke argued that today DFL leaders don’t like talking about 2013 of 2014, but he points to many costly moves in those years he says will cost the state into the future.

“That’s how we ended up where we are today with Vikings stadiums, bailouts, new Senate office buildings, the MNsure disaster, and these bills not done because of a train,” Schminke said. “And rural Minnesota’s interests [have] kind of taken a backseat.”

After putting into light rail projects, Viking stadiums and other projects, Schminke argued the state won’t eventually have enough money to fund schools and highway projects.

He wants the state to show more respect for taxpayer money.

He spoke of spending in the University of Minnesota system and Minnesota State college and universities system, arguing they could use an audit to determine where the money’s going.

Schminke argued that’s how a business would think when times are tough: You’d look at where the money is going to plug the holes.

“If you have a business unit struggling making ends meet, where’s the money going?” he said. “We don’t think like that enough in the state government.”

While Schminke wants the state and citizens to be prosperous, he doesn’t think that’s accomplished by taxing, spending and regulating.

“The state can set the table with helping people prepare, but the state’s not going to provide the opportunities,” he said. “That’s all got to grow organically,”

Property tax increases, Schminke noted, can heavily affect people on a fixed income as property taxes continue raising each year, while social security checks remain stagnant. Over time, he sees some merit in the idea of slowly shifting the burden off property taxes more toward pay-as-you go taxes, like sales tax and income tax. However, he said the state’s income and sales tax rates are already high, meaning we need to pursue policies to promote employment and growth.

Looking ahead, Schminke sees big potential tax increases coming, such as a possible gas tax increase, which some DFLers support for infrastructure funding, and the end of the federal subsidies for the federal money.

“That’s all taking us in the wrong direction, I think,” she said.

He’s currently opposed to increasing the gas tax to fund transportation needs, and he’d prefer to use the general fund surplus.

Schminke is also proud to say he’s received all of his funding from individual donations, most from within the district, along with some from family, friends and others who live outside of it. He

“I’m independent,” he said. “All my money comes from family and friends and people who know me who trust me to do the right thing up there.”

Schminke has raised $17,000 to $1,800 through donations, along with another $3,200 from subsidies.

Schminke has told voters he’d like to help fix the things that are broken, eliminate things have outlived their usefulness — he’d like to build in more sunset provisions for certain bills or actions to expire after a certain amount of time — and he wants the state to stop hundred-plus million dollar mistakes.

“And there’s lots and lots of them,” Schminke said.

Schminke challenged Poppe and lost in the 2012 election and remains concerned about the direction of the state, and he says he has the time to serve as a citizen statesman — someone retired with time to serve — he felt like he could give back after retiring in 2012 from Hormel Foods Corp.’s IT and operations research departments.

Schminke is also still promoting one of the anchors of his 2014 campaign against Poppe: “Work solves nearly everything,” he said. However, that’s taken a back seat to his talk of accountability and spending.

If elected, Schminke promised to be a voice for the district.

“I’m here to listen, and I promise to never forget that it’s the people’s seat,” he said. “It’s not a Democrat seat; it’s not a Republican seat. It’s the people’s seat, and you go there to serve first and foremost.”