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Erik Burgess, Published September 26 2012

Minn. Senate, House candidates vow to fight for rural interests

DILWORTH – Fighting for rural and Greater Minnesota needs was emphasized by candidates for both the Minnesota Senate and House races at a public forum here on Wednesday evening.

“We in Greater Minnesota, we in rural Minnesota deserve to be treated as equals,” said Rep. Kent Eken, DFL-Twin Valley, who is running for Senate. “We are not second-class citizens.”

His District 4 opponent Phil Hansen, of Detroit Lakes, agreed.

“People down in St. Paul and Minneapolis don’t know about the issues out here,” Hansen told an audience of about 20 people at Dilworth’s City Depot. “We have to be sure that (local government aid) keeps coming to our cities.”

The two discussed other issues like how to prevent another government shutdown, local flood mitigation and how property taxes affect growth.

Eken said rural property taxes have gone up eight times as much as those in metropolitan areas, largely because of cuts to local government aid and the elimination of the homestead tax credit.

The homestead tax credit, which was eliminated last year, reduced the general property tax for certain property that was occupied as a person’s primary place of residence.

But Hansen argued that the homestead tax credit had only been fully funded one time in the past 10 years.

“It was a situation when the government has overpromised and under-delivered,” he said.

Both Senate candidates said they would continue to find ways to support border cities legislation to keep Moorhead and Dilworth competitive with North Dakota.

“Obviously, we need to address the disparities between North Dakota and Minnesota,” Eken said.

Senate District 4 represents Clay and Norman counties and Detroit Lakes.

House District 4B

Keeping Greater Minnesota and the border cities properly funded was also discussed in a forum for the Minnesota House candidates in District 4B that followed the Senate forum.

Rep. Paul Marquart, DFL-Dilworth, said he would increase local government aid and border cities funding.

“That is absolutely crucial in not only keeping business in Minnesota but trying to attract businesses into the border communities,” Marquart said.

His Republican opponent, Paul Sandman, of Hawley, said local government aid is “what keeps Minnesota going” and he would continue to fight for it.

Marquart also said bringing back the homestead tax credit was key to attracting new growth in Moorhead and Dilworth.

Echoing Hansen’s sentiment from the Senate forum, Sandman said the homestead credit was eliminated because it wasn’t working.

“It only paid out right once in the last 10 years,” Sandman said.

Social issues, such as the upcoming Marriage Amendment, were also discussed. Marquart said he disagreed with the amendment, which would constitutionally define marriage in Minnesota as between one man and one woman.

“This is a huge government intrusion to our lives,” he said. “It limits individual liberties and freedoms.”

Sandman, who labeled himself “pro-life and pro-family,” said if the amendment is not passed, worse things will happen in the near future.

“There’s going to be people that want to marry their kids,” he said. “It’s going to also go to pedophiles.”

House District 4B represents rural Clay and Norman counties as well as Detroit Lakes.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Erik Burgess at (701) 241-5518