Legislative District 27A: Bennett-Gjersvik
GOP state Rep. Peggy Bennett and DFL challenger Terry Gjersvik are running to represent District 27A in the Minnesota House of Representatives. District 27A covers Freeborn County, including the city of Albert Lea.
Bennett, an Albert Lea resident and retired elementary school teacher, is running for her third term in office. Gjersvik is a farmer with a degree in ag economics. He also taught high school for more than 10 years and worked in the ag software industry.
1. If elected, what would be your top priority for the 2019 legislative session? Why are you running?
Bennett: My top priority next session is health care. Before the Affordable Care Act, Minnesota was known for its nation-leading health care system. Now, premiums have skyrocketed, deductibles have quadrupled, rural communities are losing health care access, and thousands of Minnesotans have lost their health care plans.
Last session, I chief authored three separate pieces of legislation with the goal of helping restore lost health care services to rural communities and reducing costs. One of those bipartisan bills, which created tax incentives for health care providers to locate in rural communities, made it into final legislation but was sadly vetoed by the governor.
In addition, I have been networking with health care professionals and experts, both within and outside our state, to explore other creative ideas and solutions for health care issues. I would like to continue my work on healthcare next session, along with other issues important to our area.
Gjersvik: I am running for office because I believe District 27A needs strong leadership that fights for bipartisan solutions that are fair to working families in rural Minnesota. My No.1 priority will be access to affordable health care. The people of my district are nearly unanimous in agreement that the current system is not working. We are facing reduced access to health care services (which hits young families and seniors especially hard) and health care costs that continue to rise much faster than inflation.
In St. Paul, we need to be open to all sensible solutions. I will partner with any legislator willing to write legislation requiring greater transparency from medical providers that will enable people to compare costs and have the freedom to choose more affordable services. We can also write legislation to incentivize local employers to open additional work-site clinics because they are producing significant savings for the businesses and employees using them.
2. End-of-session gridlock is becoming a recurring theme at the Capitol. What specific measures do you support to increase transparency and reduce partisan gridlock?
Bennett: I have worked hard during my two terms in the Legislature to reach across the aisle and create bipartisan work. Almost all of the bills I’ve chief authored have been bipartisan bills, and I have co-authored a number of bills with some of my Democrat colleagues. I have developed a mutually respectful relationship with my colleagues across the aisle as well as with those of my own party, and that has made it possible for me to work well with both sides. I am always willing to look for legislation that both sides can agree upon.
I have been a longtime advocate (since I first ran for office in 2014) of moving away from the big omnibus bills and toward more of a single subject, one bill/one vote process. That would make legislators’ votes more transparent and help with the last-minute gridlock.
Gjersvik: Good leaders are good listeners first of all, and then they work to find common ground. They seek to understand and then to be understood. Good leaders negotiate and compromise. I’ve done this all my life, whether as a teacher, businessman, or farmer, and I pledge to do the same if elected. Real long-term solutions require both parties working together, understanding that we’re elected to serve all the people. If I am honored to serve this district in the State House, my focus will always be on problem-solving for the people of 27A and not for a political party or agenda.
If elected, my first focus will be working to bring a single-subject tax-conformity bill to the governor’s desk by the end of January, 2019. Businesses, farmers, and all taxpayers need the Minnesota tax law to be aligned with the federal tax law. This is a bill that will positively impact all Minnesota taxpayers, and it’s one that both Republicans and Democrats can support.
3. Do you support a public buy-in for MinnesotaCare, the state program for low-income people? What measures do you support to increase access to affordable health care?
Bennett: MinnesotaCare has a very low reimbursement rate, paying around 50 cents to the dollar for what healthcare services cost. Adding large numbers of people to this program would devastate rural health care, taking people who are currently on full reimbursement insurance plans and putting them into a program that pays our hospitals and clinics half of what it costs to operate. This would put our already stressed rural hospitals and clinics out of business. Therefore, I oppose the MinnesotaCare buy-in as a viable option to fix our health care problems.
I would like to continue to look at creative ideas to bring more choice, such as my bill I mentioned above. I would also like to explore bringing Direct Primary Care clinics to Minnesota as an option to lower costs, work on price transparency, etc. Strategies like these will lower healthcare costs and give people more choice without decimating our rural healthcare.
Gjersvik: I believe that all options should be on the table as we discuss solutions to healthcare access and affordability. I’m open to the idea of a public buy-in, but we need to consider all proposed solutions as we address the problems of rising health-care costs and decreasing access (in rural areas). Ultimately, we must develop solutions to improve our current system, which is simply not working very well for most of us.
In St. Paul, we need to be open-minded and work together on this issue. One party isn’t going to get it done alone. I will partner with any legislator willing to write legislation requiring greater transparency from medical providers that will enable people to compare costs and have the freedom to choose more affordable services. We can also write legislation to incentivize local employers to open additional work-site clinics because these clinics produce big savings. I will also support legislation that targets rural health care issues, which could include property tax subsidies and additional student loan forgiveness for health care professionals willing to work in rural communities like ours.