GOP gubernatorial hopefuls, in their own words: Kurt Zellers

  • Updated: August 1, 2014 - 6:55 PM

Each in turn, the four leading contenders for the GOP gubernatorial nomination in the Aug. 12 primary have paid a call on the Star Tribune Editorial Board. Here are excerpts of what we heard.


Kurt Zellers

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On how he’s different:

I actually like what I do, and I’m proud of being good at it. After 20 years of putting in time in both the public and the private sectors, I have a foot in both worlds and how they overlap.

I faced down Gov. [Mark] Dayton [in 2011]. Every business in the state is doing more with less. Why shouldn’t government live up to that? The governor flatly rejected that, but in the end, he accepted a budget without a tax increase. That puts a bright line between the two of us, Dayton and me, that there wouldn’t be with the other guys.

On transportation:

A gas tax is a regressive sales tax. It always hits those who can least afford it the hardest. Going forward, I think it would be fair to put a user fee on the folks who are driving electric cars. That’s an additional cost on the electric grid that they are not paying for. In greater Minnesota, you would add road miles if you could have a two-tiered prevailing wage for state projects.

In 2008, [the Minnesota Department of Transportation] swore up and down they would improve efficiency and effectiveness at MnDOT. Six years later, MnDOT has yet to dust that off. There’s plenty of money in the system. Until MnDOT can prove to us that they are the most efficient and effective they’ve ever been, they shouldn’t get a gas tax increase.

On how to constrain government:

Rather than try to lure business by hitting the lowest possible [tax] dollar amount among competing states, how about we promise a first-class, A-plus educated workforce? How about we offer more STEM schools [science, technology, engineering, mathematics]?

One of the things I tried to do as [Minnesota House] speaker is to plan for the baby boom [retirement] bubble. Once all those baby boomers retire, it won’t be a question of political philosophy to cut the size of government. It’s going to be a matter of function. There will not be as many people working in our workforce in five to 10 years as there are today. We have to get ready to do more with less.

On health care:

We need to get out of Obamacare and out of the MNsure system. I’d pursue a waiver [from the federal government] to do that.

I want to open up the market. That means bringing in health care providers, just like we do for car insurance. For-profit insurers? Absolutely. I’m an early adopter of market-driven medical care. I had lasik surgery done on my eyes years ago. I could shop for the best provider, not just the lowest price but also someone who would follow up with me. I’m confident that people will do the same thing. They’ll search for value if there’s more competition in the system.

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