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Paynesville Press - Oct. 27, 2010

Minnesota Senate District 14
Mike Sharp

Mike Sharp

Mike Sharp (DFL-Clearwater), 51, is the director of academic advising center at St. Cloud State University.

Why are you interested in serving in the Legislature? We need a new approach to the democratic process in our state. I am not a career politician, and I doubt very much that I will ever become one. I am involved in this race for senate because I really believe we can make a difference in St. Paul and that I have the skill set to bring something new to the conversation at the capitol. We can work together to re-claim Minnesota's role as a leader in education, care and respect for our seniors, economic opportunities for all, technological innovation, and environmental protection.

What, if any, state revenue increases could you support? I agree with those who are proposing that we look at adjusting the formula by which we assess income taxes in Minnesota. It is clearly the best means we have for assessing the tax burden by ability to pay and therefore passes the fairness test for many Minnesotans. The wealthiest Minnesotans are not going to up and leave the state when this happens and the suggestion that we will see the departure of all small businesses in the state is just a scare tactic.

The "no new taxes" pledges of the past years have translated into increases in property taxes and fees as you note in your question. We need to be honest about what we are doing.

I am not particularly fond of an expansion of the sales tax unless there are provisions for some type of tax credit for people below a certain income level. I think there are some creative options to explore in this arena.

Describe an out-of-the-box solution to help the budget. We could stop demonizing the federal government and acknowledge that deficit spending on the federal level is one way we, as a people, can tackle financial difficulties. The first stimulus package did translate directly into saved jobs and state services in Minnesota, and if we worked with our federal partners in the House and Senate to be certain that future stimuli are aimed at programs that produce jobs we would have more revenue to work with in our state budget.

A long-term solution is to immediately direct our public institutions of higher education to direct resources toward a future green and sustainable economy. There is work out there for the entrepreneurs who get in the front of the green revolution and Minnesota has the brains and the work ethic to be leaders. We need an Apollo project for the movement into an economic system which does not systematically poison the place we call home.

We could also immediately re-visit the bonding bill when the legislature convenes in 2011 as the projects rejected by the governor are investments in the state which are also connected directly with jobs for Minnesotans.

If you were king (or queen), how would you balance the state budget? I would step back and re-design the tax system in the state. We would benefit from an honest conversation about essential state services and fair taxation. We owe as much to our children and grandchildren.

With the Vikings lease expiring after 2011, what state role do you support in building a new Vikings stadium? I am uncomfortable committing to unknown formulas for state investment in a private business. I don't doubt there are ways to creatively participate in the process whereby the Vikings would build a new stadium, but I am not a fan of corporate welfare. I would like to see the numbers first.

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