Minnesota House 16B candidates: Paul Torkelson
Why are you running for state representative?
I have enjoyed my work in the legislature serving the people of Minnesota. The completion of a four-lane highway to New Ulm is an example of what can be accomplished through perseverance and cooperation. My experience gives me a base of knowledge about my constituents, my district, and my state. Utilizing who and what I know I strive to represent all of them to the best of my ability. Over the past 12 years, in the Minnesota House, I have worked hard to establish my reputation and I will utilize my experience to be an effective legislator. If the voters of 16B are kind enough to re-elect me this fall I stand ready to represent them.
From your perspective, what is the role of a state representative?
The role of a state representative is to serve the constituents of their district and the best interests of the State of Minnesota. Representatives introduce bills, resolutions, and amendments. Then they do their best to gain the support needed for enactment. An important part of the process is the work done within the committee structure where bills are heard and revised. When constituents come forward with an issue regarding their interaction with Minnesota’s governmental agencies state representatives work with the resources available to see that people are treated fairly. Additionally, there are many times when a state representative is asked to perform official duties.
What will be your approach to balancing the next two-year state budget in terms of reducing spending and/or raising taxes and fees?
Minnesota’s office of Management and Budget recently projected a shortfall in the 2022-23 budget of $4.7 billion. I would like to see more work being done to identify savings in the current biennium which would ease that deficit. I oppose tax hikes which would slow the recovery and punish the families and businesses that are already suffering. I was serving in the legislature the last time we had a significant deficit to deal with and I know that it is a tough job. This time we will have the added challenge of dealing with the pandemic and a deficit at the same time. It is extremely hard to predict where cuts can be made until we have a clear picture of what additional programs will be implemented by the Federal Government. We could see a significant amount of Federal stimulus spending on programs and infrastructure. The specifics will directly impact our work at the state level.
How would you work to collaborate with local units of government?
I have always done my best to establish a good working relationship with all local officials. I meet with them regularly, sometimes at functions in the district and at other times when they come to meet me at the capitol. Often, local officials will communicate with me officially by letter or resolution. Local government is also represented at the capitol by the organizations they are members of. These associations include The Association of Minnesota Counties, The League of Minnesota Cities, The Minnesota Association of Townships, The Minnesota School Boards Association, and many others. Each of these groups have staff working with us on a regular basis.
How as a state representative would you work to promote economic development?
Minnesota has a rich history of businesses that have been extraordinarily successful. The best thing government can do is to provide a business environment that attracts new business development and allows existing business to thrive. We should avoid burdensome regulation and unreasonable mandates that discourage and inhibit growth. Minnesota is already a highly taxed state and raising taxes can drive business owners and their businesses out of the state. Penalties and fines should be a last resort. Instead, our state agencies can be there to lend a helping hand. If you are elected, what would your top priority be for the 2021 state legislative session? My top priority for 2021 will be the ongoing effort to deal with COVID-19. We must help families and small businesses recover from the impacts of the pandemic and the Governor’s shutdown. This effort will require seeking out a balance between safety and prosperity. I support reopening as much as we can, as quickly as we can, while at the same time protecting the most vulnerable. To best address this pandemic the Governor should put an end to the emergency powers and work cooperatively with the legislature. It saddens me that some aspects of our response have become politicized.
How do you grade the state government’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic?
I rate Minnesota’s response to the pandemic as uneven and at times arbitrary. We have taken advantage of the help offered by the Federal Government providing extra unemployment compensation and aid to businesses. Minnesota has responded with additional aid from the State. Many employers, however, are struggling with limits on capacity and regulations on how they function. Healthcare restrictions resulted in some patients being forced to delay treatment and some healthcare facilities standing almost empty until those restrictions were lifted. The concentration of deaths in a subset of long-term care facilities is alarming and the reaction to that aspect of the crisis was too slow. The approach to opening schools is an improvement as it allows for a higher level of local control.
Other than the topics already addressed, what, from your perspective, is the biggest issue facing the State of Minnesota, and how would you work to resolve it?
Public Safety – I support the rule of law and the right to peacefully protest. I cannot condone the destruction of personal and public property. Calls for the defunding of police are an over-reaction and should not result in dramatically upending how law enforcement is conducted across the State. I will support the rule of Law. Education – Minnesota students are faced with a high level of uncertainty and it is likely that there will be further disruptions of in-person learning. I believe that schools will need to adjust throughout the school year depending on local circumstances. We need to support our students at all levels as a well-educated population is the key to a prosperous future.
Why should people vote for you?
Throughout my 12 years of service I have listened to my constituents and responded to the issues they bring forward. I am Pro-Life, I support agriculture and our rural way of life, I protect our second amendment rights, I support funding our rural schools, and I want Minnesota to be a business-friendly State. I have a record of success including support for completion of the four-lane expansion of Highway 14 and successful passage of legislation to reduce burdensome paperwork for special education educators. I help my constituents solve problems dealing with government, including something as simple as getting a driver’s license or as complex as a land exchange involving local, state, and federal governments. It has been an honor and a privilege to serve in the Minnesota House. I would like to thank the citizens for their votes in past elections and I humbly ask for their vote again in 2020.
Please provide a brief bio of yourself.
My wife, Cindy, and I live on Lake Hanska in southern Brown County. Born and raised in Watonwan County, I am a lifelong member of East Sveadahl Lutheran Church. I graduated from St. James High School and Gustavus Adolphus College. Following college graduation, I taught in Fairfax for four years. My wife is a retired elementary school teacher and we recently celebrated our 40th wedding anniversary. We have two adult daughters. I am actively engaged in the operation of my family farm where we raise corn, soybeans and hogs on the farm first established by my great-grandfather in 1878. In November 2018 I was elected to serve my sixth consecutive term in the Minnesota House of Representatives. I returned to serve as a member of the Republican Minority Caucus and my committee assignments for the 2019-20 Session included serving as Republican Lead of the Transportation Finance Committee. I also served on the Capital Investment, Ways and Mean, and Ethics committees. In May of this year I was endorsed by the District 16B Republican delegates to run for a seventh term. On Aug. 11 I won a primary election contest with 79 percent of the vote.