Minnesota Senate District 16 candidate: Gary Dahms
Why are you running for state senate?
Service is an important part of my life. I am dedicated to serve the wonderful citizens of Senate District 16 and the best interests of the State of Minnesota. I believe that the values and policy positions I take are reflective of our district and its citizens. My goal is to make our area a better place to live, to work and to raise a family. I am very humbled by the support of our citizens in the past and, if re-elected, look forward to continuing to serve with honor and enthusiasm, and I ask for your vote on Nov. 3.
From your perspective, what is the role of a State Senator?
In my opinion, as a senator I wear many hats. We serve on various committees that deal with specific issues in relationship to the jurisdiction of that committee. It is our responsibility to become knowledgeable in relationship to the committees we serve on; however, we need to have a general understanding of all of the committees. We must also recognize that we are the conduit between our constituents, and the legislative body, the agencies, and the governor. When we author or co-author bills they need to serve the best interests of the district and the state. As Senators we need to negotiate, compromise, and fight for legislation that is in the best interest of our district.
What will be your approach to balancing the next two-year state budget in terms of reducing spending and/or raising taxes and fees?
In 2010 we faced a $6 Billion budget deficit. After several months of hard work, negotiations, compromise and thoughtful consideration of all parts of the budget we were able to come to a conclusion and balance the budget as required by the State Statute. Balancing the budget in 2020 will be considerably more difficult. We will have many of the same issues along with the impact and devastation of COVID-19. COVID-19 is the main cause of the current deficit. This deficit is caused by the lack of revenues due to the fact that many businesses have been closed and very few are currently operating at capacity. This relates to a major reduction in tax revenue and the predictions are that 40 percent or more of our small businesses will not survive and those that do survive will be financially struggling so increasing taxes, in my opinion, is not an option. We need to take an approach that is careful, considerate and thoughtful while protecting the funding, as much as possible, for the elderly and the disabled and those that take care of them. We will need to downsize state government and hold state agencies accountable for every dollar they spend. We must continue to eliminate fraud and decrease unnecessary spending. There will be a lot of hard decisions that will need to be made in order to balance the budget. Many of the decisions will depend on federal stimulus funding and programs.
How would you work to collaborate with local units of government?
As a former County Commissioner I realize the importance of developing a strong relationship with other local units of government as well as the state government. I am a strong advocate for local control and local authority in the decision making process. As a state legislator I have made my office accessible and have an open-door policy to local units of government and work very closely with associations that represent counties, cities, townships, and local school boards.
How as a state senator would you work to promote economic development?
As a State Senator there are several things we do to promote economic development; support programs through the Department of Economic Development for small business loans, grants, and tax credit programs, work to reduce taxes on small businesses and farmers in order to attract new businesses and encourage expansion of existing businesses, and provide incentives through such things as the Angel Tax Credit. The State also partners with local communities to develop work force housing. As a rural legislator I work very hard to make sure rural Minnesota gets its fair share.
If you are elected, what would your top priority be for the 2021 state legislative session?
The year 2021 will be the first year in the next biennium. The first year is always the budget year; and as always, the most important issue that needs to be addressed. In 2021 the budget, in my opinion, would be the biggest issue because we will have a huge deficit. There will certainly be other issues such as COVID-19 and public safety. With regard to COVID-19 and its ongoing impact we need to support all those that have been affected by the virus - individuals, farmers, businesses and front-line workers. I also feel the Governor needs to relinquish his peace-time emergency pandemic powers and allow all three branches of government to work together to make the decisions that have a major impact on how we handle the virus and its outcomes. Recognizing one size does not fit all we should allow more local input in the decision making process.
How do you grade the state governments response to the COVID-19 pandemic?
First of all, I would like to thank all of the front-line workers for everything they have done and continue to do. Early in the pandemic I would rate our response as something to be proud of. Working bipartisanly to get relief to workers and those affected by the pandemic was a real accomplishment. As time went on, the Governor worked less and less with the legislative bodies and now is making all of the decisions single-handedly. I think it is unfortunate that the Governor is using his emergency powers in order to make major decisions that affect people’s lives, their livelihoods and their freedoms without the input of the legislative bodies. I feel the statute should be changed so that the House and the Senate would have to vote to authorize the continuation of the Governor's emergency powers verses the way it is now – where both bodies have to vote to take the powers away.
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?
Minnesotans need to feel safe in the communities they live in. Things have changed this summer and I feel people are concerned more than ever about their safety. We need to support our police departments instead of defunding and dismantling them. We need to make sure that our communities provide law enforcement that is properly trained and staffed and allowed to provide the security necessary to keep the citizens safe.
Why should people vote for you?
I believe my experience and prior occupations have prepared me for the MN Senate. I owned and operated an insurance agency, was a prior County Commissioner and have served on several boards, commissions, and committees. We need a strong Senator representing Senate District 16 who will fight for ag, business, education, healthcare, transportation, and other issues. A majority of the bills I author have bipartisan support because it is important to work with legislators on both sides of the aisle. It has been an honor and a privilege to represent you in the Minnesota Senate. I appreciate all of your support in the past elections and ask for your vote on November 3.
Please provide a brief bio of yourself.
I was born and raised on a farm near Clements, MN, graduated from Redwood Falls High School, and graduated from the University of Minnesota with a Bachelor's degree in Agricultural Business Administration. I am married to my wife, Barb, and have two grown children and two granddaughters. I owned and operated Dahms Insurance Agency with offices in Redwood Falls and Fairfax for 26 years and retired in January 2012. Prior to becoming a State Senator, I served as a Redwood County Commissioner representing the Fifth Commissioner District. I am a graduate of the Blandin Community Leadership Program and also participated in the Blandin CALP program. As a community member I have served on several boards and commissions and I currently serve as a director for Service Enterprises, Inc., in Redwood Falls and Marshall. I was elected to the MN Senate in 2010 and re-elected in 2012 and 2016. I currently serve as an Assistant Majority Leader and am part of the leadership team. I also chair the Senate Commerce and Consumer Protection Committee, am Vice chair of the E-12 Education Policy and Finance Committee, serve on the Agriculture Rural Development and Housing Policy Committee and serve on the Capital Investment Committee. I also serve on the Legislative Coordinating Commission (LCC), Legislative Citizens Commission on Minnesota Resources (LCCMR), Minnesota Agriculture Education Leadership Council (MAELC), Minnesota Indian Affairs Council, and the Senate Rules Committee.