*We are continuing our Meet the Candidates conversations for the November 3rd 2020 elections. We recently talked with Senator Jason Rarick (R) from Minnesota Senate District 11 who is running for reelection. He is running against Michelle Lee (DFL). You can hear our interview with him here.
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*KAXE/KBXE News and Public Affairs Director Heidi Holtan recently spoke with Senator Jason Rarick. The following transcript has been edited for clarity. The audio of this interview is available at the top of this page.
(Heidi Holtan) Q: Senator Jason Rarick is a Republican who is running for Senate District 11. He's running for reelection. District 11 includes Carlton, Pine, and parts of St. Louis County, and towns and places like Cloquet, Willow River, Moose Lake, Barnum, and Hinckley. Senator Jason Rarick joins us now. Thanks for your time today.
(Jason Rarick) A: You're welcome.
Q: So why are you running for reelection?
A: Well, over the last six years, as I've served in the legislature, I've had many people reach out and thank me for the job I'm doing and appreciate the effort, so I want to continue serving with people, as I have grown and been able to understand the role of the legislature more and more.
Q: Talk about priorities in your district, in Senate District 11. If I made you choose two priorities, what would they be?
A: Rural broadband is something that I've been working on for a number of years, and probably outside of the economy and the COVID situation right now, by far the number one issue. We have to get better internet service for rural areas so that we expand the opportunities for business or people working from home. And then education, whether it's elementary, high school, or college. We are just are so limited with education opportunities that people have because of our limited access. And statewide, as well as our area, how are we going to deal with a new deficit because of the shutdowns, and where are we going to be able to make cutbacks and spending that would have the least impact on the services for the people of Minnesota.
Q: We are still in a pandemic, and I think most people are affected by it daily. What are your thoughts on how the state of Minnesota has handled it so far?
A: I think especially at the beginning, when things were so uncertain, things were handled very well, considering. I wish now that we were going back to having the legislature work together so that we could really look at making it more regional, and handle it differently in different areas of the state, depending on the comfort level of the people and the population density. I'm hoping to having the legislature and local people be able to have far more input in what is going to be done as far as mandates or restrictions.
Q: Because the pandemic really interrupted the last session and you're being called back every month for a special session, that affected the bonding bill and the supplemental budget bill that have a big effect on people in your district. Can you tell us more about that and what hopes you have for it?
A: In general there was a lot of good legislation that was being worked on for this last regular session. And just not being back at Capitol, and having such a lack of access to the people and to discuss [issues] really ended up causing a lot of good things that were being worked on to fall to the wayside, including the bonding bill and supplemental budget. Those two are still being worked on. And I am very hopeful that they are coming to an agreement; that we will have another special session in September - or potentially October 11th or 12th - and we can come back again because of the emergency powers. But I am still holding out hope that both of those are going to get done. I know most legislators want to get that completed, want to get that done, especially the bonding bill right now, because it's such a downturn in the economy. Getting these projects up and going benefits the whole state.
Q: We're talking with Senator Jason Rarick. He is running for reelection in Senate District 11. The Minnesota Correctional Facility in Willow River is within your district. Can you tell us a little bit about what they are facing and what you think the outcome is going to be there?
A: Yeah, that is one of the situations we knew [about] last year, coming into session. The Department of Corrections had a budget deficit looming. That was very important right away - that we were hoping to deal with that. The supplemental budget not happening was a big reason why they're coming forward with the proposal to close that facility and the facility in Togo. I struggled with that. We attended a rally in Moose Lake, and people who work there - the community - presented their case and really explained, incredibly well, why closing facilities is not economically viable for the department. They save money, actually, by running those two programs. And to try to move the program into a different facility; they explained to them why that just will not work. I've been working with the agency and a number of other legislators to get them to change their mind and utilize their other cutbacks that could happen. But closing those facilities, in the long run, is not going to save the agency money. It will end up costing them more money.
Q: Yeah, in both Togo and Willow River, it's not just the people that are there and the program that they run, but they really are doing a lot for the communities where those facilities are.
A: Yeah, absolutely. The people at Moose Lake have written examples of how the people and programs have reached out to the community; just a lot of community things. As a member of the board of the East Central Habitat for Humanity, they have helped out with a number of our projects, building homes. So they've come in and they've done roofing, they've done sod work. They have built great relationships, not just in this community, but in surrounding areas as well. They've traveled all the way down to Princeton for some of the projects that Habitat for Humanity has asked them to help with, so I really hope we can save that program in their current location.
Q: Before we go. I wonder if you'd talk a little bit about the issue that families and businesses face, especially in small towns and rural places, when it comes to the lack of daycare and the high costs of daycare. What are you seeing in your district, and what do you hope for the future?
A: No matter where you travel, we've been hearing about lack of daycare, which prevents people from being able to get to a job as needed. I think we need to be able to reach out. First, we want to make sure our children are safe and have proper people watching them. But I do believe some of the paperwork and qualifications that they're required to go through just prevent so many people that would be willing to do it to not do it. And then another thing that I've heard is, a number of people who do it...maybe they have a spouse that's out working. And so they decide they're going to stay home. So then they open up their home to watch other children so that other families can go to work, and it becomes their occupation. But when their kids are older, they want to stop doing that, and there really isn't a good way for them to transfer that over to somebody else. So those are things that I'm thinking [we need to] address, and make it easier for people to start. And you can just do it on a temporary basis without all of the requirements. That would really, really expand the opportunity for people in our rural areas.
Q: What are you hearing from small businesses in your region? How are they doing during this difficult time?
A: It depends on the sector. You know, many in the construction industries have been doing well, if not better than normal. [inaudible] The service industry...when it comes to the bars and restaurants, and the salons and fitness centers, they have really struggled. And for them, it's been especially difficult watching the large stores like Walmart, Target, and Home Depot permitted to stay open, and they've been closed. So that's something that I hope we can take a more reasonable approach to say "Let's let some of these small businesses, that are the lifeblood of our small towns, to be able to stay open, so they can continue not only to serve their community, but to continue their livelihood.
Q: That is Senator Jason Rarick, a Republican who is running for reelection in Minnesota Senate District 11. For more information, you can go to jasonrarick.com. Thanks for your time today.
A: Thank you so much.