Candidate questionnaire – Beth Fraser

In addition to our candidate forum on March 9 (if you missed it, you can hear a recording on Tim Nelson’s blog), we sent a second round of questions to the 64B candidates. Here are Beth Fraser’s answers.Fraser

What do you see as the main issues concerning the residents of House District 64B and how would you address those issues?

After spending the last 3 months talking with delegates in the district, there are three issues that come up most frequently:

  1. The need to provide quality, affordable education at all levels–early childhood, K-12, and higher education. I will be a strong advocate for investing in each of these areas to ensure that all Minnesota students have the tools to succeed and no child starts behind in kindergarten.
  2. The need to protect our environment and ensure that the next generation has clean air and water. I will fight against Poly Met and for policies that move us towards a state with good jobs, a clean environment, and a green economy.
  3. The need for someone to continue Rep. Michael Paymar’s legacy as a champion for common sense gun laws, such as closing the gun show loophole and preventing those with orders for protection against them from having firearms. I am the only candidate in the race who is running on continuing Michael’s work in this arena.

How do the interests of 64B differ from the interests of Minnesota as a whole, and how would you balance those interests?

While there are many similarities and our fates are inked, different places in Minnesota need attention in specific ways. Local issues are part of the mix at the Capitol and I will advocate strongly for 64B on issues of unique importance in this compact urban community and for the priority of those needs, such as cleanup and redevelopment of the Ford Plant. I will also listen and consider carefully issues experienced by other parts of the state such as different land use needs, transportation options, education funding mechanisms and health delivery challenges. This approach builds a sense of trust, understanding and reciprocity with other legislators which improves both the likelihood of success for our local needs and balance for our statewide community. Most importantly, however, I would evaluate all decisions through a prism of progressive values consistent with the strong leaders who have served us in the past.

Can you describe skills or experience that you possess that will help you succeed in a highly partisan atmosphere? Would your answer change if the DFL is no longer in the majority?

After 17 years of working at the Capitol, testifying hundreds of times and working with legislators on both sides of the aisle, I have learned how to advocate strongly for progressive goals and yet figure out what is achievable in the moment, and to argue passionately without alienating the other side. I have built strong working relationships with both DFL and Republican legislators, which is the key to establishing the trust necessary to be effective and move past partisanship. For example, even in the middle of leading the fight at the Capitol against the Photo ID constitutional amendment, I worked with Republican legislators who controlled both bodies of the legislature to get other election bills passed, making progress in areas in which we could find agreement. The keys to being an effective legislator are the same regardless of who is in charge. These skills and relationships have allowed me to get legislation passed and signed into law in 13 of the last 17 years and will allow me to be an effective legislator my first year in office.

If you win this election, you will be filling a seat that has been occupied by some of the most respected leaders in the Minnesota House. Identify three concrete accomplishments of yours that demonstrate the type of leader and state representative that you will be.

I won passage of and then designed Minnesota’s Safe at Home program, which is now the strongest program of its kind in the country for survivors of domestic violence and stalking. I have been a dogged advocate for the program and its participants, convincing other state agencies to change their practices to protect participants and going back to the legislature again and again to expand the legal protections for program participants.

I led the fight at the State Capitol against the Photo ID constitutional amendment, testifying in committee on behalf of Secretary of State Ritchie. I laid out the potential consequences of passing the amendment (including the potential impact on nearly 1 million Minnesotans from ending same day registration and absentee balloting by mail) — information the Vote No campaign used to defeat the amendment.

I brokered a compromise between two diametrically opposed groups by bringing together representatives from the disability community and the Minnesota Association of Townships along with legislators from both sides of the aisle, for months of discussion to explore options related to a requirement to use accessible voting equipment in township elections.

I negotiated with Representative Dan McElroy (R-Burnsville) on the last day of the legislative session in 1999 to decide what would be included in the nation’s strongest accountability law for corporate subsidies.

Our state’s population is aging and with those demographic changes come increased costs for long term care. What steps would you take to address those changes, and how should they be paid for?

The solutions are multiple; all primarily involve recognizing that there is a need for a variety of care environments to meet a variety of care needs. Community settings cost less than institutions and maintain higher functioning longer.

I support the 5% Campaign Minnesota to increase the funding for direct care professionals as well as home and community based services. The 5% Campaign will increase the availability and consistency of health care workers in the long term care field as well as provide for fair wages.

Fortunately part of the answer has begun to be realized with the Affordable Care Act. A recent GAO report (1/16/14) confirmed other research findings that indicate as people begin to receive benefits from Retirement Social Security, those who have had access to regular affordable health care have lower health costs in the first five years of Social Security than those without prior continuous health care coverage. If our health care needs are met as we age, the costs of the Long Term Care system are reduced.

After several legislative cycles, Minnesota is forecast to have a budget surplus as a result of increased taxes and an improved economy. Stakeholders are calling for a variety of responses, including increasing the state’s budget reserve, spending the money on a variety of initiatives, and repealing some of the B2B taxes. How do you believe the state should respond?

I think the state should look at splitting the projected surplus three ways. First we should set aside a large portion of the funds for the state’s budget reserve to ensure that the state can weather economic downturns without the need for budget cuts or delaying payments to local governments or schools. To the extent that the projected surplus is anticipated to continue into future years (is not just one-time money), I agree with the House DFL’s proposal to enact federal tax conformity, including items such as adoption assistance, and to eliminate some of the business to business taxes. Finally, remaining funds should be invested in early childhood education, since this has been shown to have the best return on investment and did not receive the funding that it should have during the last legislative session. In addition, the legislature should take this opportunity to insist that the state go back to an honest accounting approach and require that inflation be included on both sides of the ledger — in both projected revenues and expenditures.

Some people define the public good narrowly to include only public safety and roads. Others define the public good more broadly, to include health care for all, economic security for all, education for everyone at all levels, etc. How do you define the public good? How would you decide what should be included in the public good and what should not?

Minnesota is one community and what affects one of us affects us all. I define the public good broadly. As Paul Wellstone said, government is about the improvement of people’s lives. Government’s role is to ensure that everyone has access to a decent life — high quality, affordable education at all levels (early-childhood, K-12 and higher ed), living wage jobs with safe workplace conditions, access to health care, including reproductive choices, safe and healthy food, clean air and water, safe communities, infrastructure for transportation and transit, equal protections under the law for all regardless of their race, gender, sexual orientation, disability and age. The public good does not include the imposition of any one group’s moral or religious views onto the population as a whole. I will fight against efforts to limit a woman’s right to choose, limitations on the LGBT community, and for the repeal of old “blue laws,” like prohibitions on Sunday liquor sales.