Candidates in District 40 bring campaign experience into the race for three legislative seats.
Sen. Karen Krebsbach, R-Minot, who has served in the Senate since 1988, is running unopposed on the Nov. 6 ballot. In the House race are incumbent Reps. Matt Klein and Bob Frantsvog, both R-Minot, and Democrat challengers Louis Pinkerton of Minot and Sue Olafson of Glenburn. Pinkerton represented District 5 in the Legislature from 2006 to 2010. Olafson was a House candidate in District 40 in 2008.
Klein has served in the House since 1992, chairing the Government and Veterans Affairs Committee for three years. He was selected Speaker of the House in 2005.
A member of the American Legion, he served in the Air Force during the Korean War. A retired electrical engineer, he worked on the Apollo Spacecraft Program in California, worked on the Minuteman Missile program at Minot Air Force Base, for the U.S. Army in Germany, as deputy base civil engineer at Minot AFB and with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in managing construction projects. He also has been involved in various community projects in Minot.
Frantsvog has served in the House since 2008, sitting on the Industry, Business and Labor and Transportation committees. He served in the North Dakota National Guard from 1961 to 1966 during the Berlin Crisis and retired after more than 34 years with the City of Minot, the last 25 years as finance director. He is a member of the Minot State University Beaver Boosters and American Legion.
Krebsbach serves on the Senate Appropriations Committee. She previously chaired the Government and Veterans Affairs Committee and was President Pro Tempore of the Senate in 2001. She has a background in business and has served on many community and statewide boards, including Minot Area Development Corp., Trinity Health, Minot Area Chamber of Commerce and North Dakota Chamber of Commerce.
Pinkerton is a part-time veterinarian at Pinkerton Animal Hospital and former member of the Minot School Board.
Olafson farms near Glenburn with her family. She has been a longtime educator in the Minot school system.
The candidates provided responses to the following questions:
1. Do you support continued property-tax relief in the upcoming biennium, and if so, what form should it take?
Olafson: I support property-tax relief. I support Ryan Taylor's plan of up to $100,000 (of property value reduction) in tax relief for home owners.
Pinkerton: I support continued property-tax relief in the form of a fixed amount per residential property. I would include primary and secondary residences and would limit the reduction to North Dakota residents. While the amendment to eliminate property taxes failed, North Dakota residents still need and want substantial tax reduction.
Klein: I support continued property-tax relief. We have set aside over $500 million for that use and expect to add additional dollars to that. The governor's proposal on property-tax relief will be the starting point, and I expect it will follow how it was handled in prior sessions.
Frantsvog: Yes, I support continued property-tax relief in the upcoming biennium. In my contact with the voters of District 40, property-tax relief was the most talked about issue. Increasing the funding from $340-plus million by an additional $400 million, as proposed by the governor, and buying down school mill levies as the Legislature has done in the past is popular with the voters.
Krebsbach: Yes, I support the continuation of property-tax relief. At this time, I am supporting the same manner that was done in 2009 and 2011 sessions, requiring that it reduce the mill levy for K-12 education. If a better option comes forth, I certainly will review and consider its impact.
2. Do you favor other types of changes in the state's tax structure?
Frantsvog: The Legislature needs to look at some control over the growth of property values. If there were limits on annual growth, the properties would still get to their true value, but it would take some additional time to get there. Controlled growth would take some of the bite out of increasing property values and property-tax increases.
Krebsbach: Because of the surplus, at this time I would strongly look at ways of reducing the burden of taxes in other areas, such as income tax, and increasing the Homestead Tax Credit to assist those in fixed and low-income households.
Klein: Yes, I believe we need to reduce income taxes and increase the areas of Homestead Credit and disabled veteran allowances.
Pinkerton: I believe we really need to look at the current sales tax and its impact on the cost of flood recovery.
Olafson: I support a sales-tax rebate for those affected by the flood for the restoration of their damaged homes, businesses and other damaged structures.
3. Should there be changes in the oil-tax distribution to cities and counties?
Krebsbach: The governor is requesting more dollars to be included in the impact funds for oil-impacted counties. This I support and will consider an increase in the tax distribution for cities and counties to address the specific needs of the areas impacted by the energy development. This includes our local area, even though we do not at this time have producing wells in our backyard, but certainly are experiencing the growth of the industry.
Klein: Yes, I believe the heavily impacted oil areas should get a larger share of the oil-tax dollars keeping in mind, infrastructure throughout the state is impacted and overall coordination is required.
Frantsvog: Yes, there should be some change. The distribution should take into consideration impact to the communities even though they may not have oil wells in their county. Minot is a good example of the need for an expanded infrastructure because of the growth in both housing as well as business, both to service the needs of the oil industry in North Dakota. The oil-tax distribution should assist in funding these needs.
Olafson: I would support increasing the share of the state energy tax revenue to impacted counties and communities from the current 11 percent up to 40 percent.
Pinkerton: Oil taxes must go to impacted areas first, then distributed across the state.
4. To what extent does the state have responsibility to help oil-affected communities with housing, law enforcement, roads, child care and impact-related concerns?
Pinkerton: Oil-impacted areas should receive state funding to provide for the changes in housing, law enforcement, roads, child care and impact-related concerns that the oil boom has caused.
Olafson: The state has a responsibility to help the oil-affected communities in all the concerns listed here. We have the ability to do more for the people in these areas and I believe it is our duty to do so.
Frantsvog: Law enforcement, roads and child care are three items that definitely should be areas of assistance by the state to affected communities on a needs basis. Assistance should be by helping to fund those needs.
Krebsbach: The state can be very effective in facilitating local, state and federal programs to accomplish low-income housing projects, which they have done in several areas in the west, including Minot. With growth of city boundaries, there is definitely need for more law enforcement protection, both by local police departments and sheriff's staff in the counties, as they are being stretched to full extent at this time. Along with this growth, road and traffic concerns need addressing. We are in great demand for additional workers, and child care is a criteria necessary for many working families.
Klein: The state has a responsibility to assist in these areas but local involvement is critical, with roads and law enforcement being primary concerns.
5. What should be the state's priorities for the budget surplus?
Klein: I am sure the governor's budget proposal will address the most important concerns, but we need to be sure to invest in infrastructure and not start major new programs we cannot fund in future sessions.
Frantsvog: I would like the budget surplus to be used to fund one-time expenditures. Also, some of the surplus should be put away to fund unexpected future needs.
Krebsbach: We need to address the infrastructure needs of our cities, counties and townships. Adequately fund both K-12 and higher education, as these are the future leaders and workers. Take care of the elderly in programs of assistance where necessary. I feel that we will be able to leave a carry-over balance adequate to cover any unexpected catastrophe or need. Also, a reserve needs to remain to cover property-tax relief for the future biennium. If there is a way to return to the people some dollars in the form of tax reduction, that should be a consideration.
Olafson: Property-tax relief. Assist flood victims. Increase the funding for law enforcement and courts. Address the infrastructure needs. Affordable housing. Education and child care.
Pinkerton: First priority for the budget surplus is to protect the citizens of the state from events the citizens cannot protect themselves from, like floods, other natural disasters and proliferation of crime.
6. Do you support the Three-Tier System Access Plan for the University System? Are you satisfied that the Board of Higher Education is on the right track or do you believe there are areas where the Legislature should be more involved?
Pinkerton: I do not support the Three-Tier system. I am not satisfied with the direction of the Board of Higher Education. I would expect the Legislature to look at higher education as a whole rather than think North Dakota lives only on the banks of the Red River.
Olafson: I am not a supporter of the Three-Tier System plan. The people in the western part of the state need to work together as a community in a bipartisan fashion to change this system, which will be detrimental for our community and other communities in the western part of North Dakota.
Frantsvog: The State Board of Higher Education has already approved the Three-Tier System as well as a plan for its implementation. I think the process went too quick, and I hope that establishing new admission standards, which includes the Three-Tier System, can be made acceptable (probably with some modifications during the implementation) to the citizens of North Dakota.
Klein: I am not in favor of the Three-Tier System. The idea of pre-determining a person's life track kind of follows the European system and seems to me un-American. The Board of Higher Education has a major task, and many people cannot spend the time to do the job justice. Maybe turning over so much authority to the chancellor should have been more slowly phased in.
Krebsbach: At this time, I do not support the new system. The success or failure of the three-Tier System is unknown at this time. It depends on the flexibility that is offered to the individual campuses and the amount of time given to implement the changes. More time and consultation with campuses before it was adopted may have given opportunity to create a system that could have accomplished some of the good goals of the plan on a more acceptable venue.
7. To what extent should the Legislature consider assisting Minot with flood recovery or flood protection?
Frantsvog: I would like to see the state contribute substantially to the total cost of flood protection. The balance should be federal and local. The state participation could be spread over a period of years. The City of Minot contribution should be in the area of 25 percent, with the balance state and federal.
Krebsbach: The Legislature, along with the governor, has been very open to the plight that Minot and the area faced and continues to face with the flood of 2011. I would expect that this attitude will continue in the upcoming session. It is up to us to present an accurate status of the needs and financial assistance that is still needed to recover and protect our city with permanent flood protection.
Klein: There is no question the state Emergency Services and the governor's office, National Guard and all state agencies have done a most remarkable job assisting the Minot area and I believe will continue just as the state helped Grand Forks in the past.
Pinkerton: Flood recovery and flood prevention should be priorities of the whole state. North Dakota should research the responses and responsibilities that other states have assumed in flood issues. I believe North Dakota has under-performed, especially considering the large budget surplus.
Olafson: With the states surplus and the need of the Minot residents after the devastating flood, it is imperative that assistance is given to the community. We need the same consideration as the citizens in the eastern part of the state.
8. Are there issues on which you feel strongly and would like to see legislation?
Pinkerton: Flood recovery and flood prevention, property-tax increase, the oil boom and lack of affordable housing are all interconnected in Minot. The State of North Dakota must play a larger role in keeping our community whole.
Olafson: I am concerned with the issues the citizens of North Dakota are facing at this time, many of which have been addressed in the above questions. But I also think that we cannot overlook our young citizens. Also of concern to me are the waiting lists for affordable child care, the funding for Head Start, the CHIPS program, parents working multiple jobs to support their families and the quality of life of all our citizens. We need to take a proactive approach to define what that future will be rather than just wait passively for the future to arrive.
Klein: At this time, I plan to attend the Legislative Management meeting on Nov. 13 and 14, where the interim committees report their studies and proposals, and go from there.
Krebsbach: During the special session in November 2011, legislation was submitted that would give sales-tax relief to victims of the flood for refund on items such as furniture, appliances and materials needed for replacement. It was not accepted as they wanted to restrict introduction of additional proposals, but, hopefully, it will be given consideration in the upcoming session.