Speaking With Tom Emmer

Until Monday, the only Republican candidate for Minnesota governor to visit the Daily Globe thus far as part of the current campaign was former state auditor Pat Anderson, who Tuesday opted to run for her former office instead.

I’ve now met Tom Emmer, who had a representative call me Monday morning to let me know his guy was in Worthington and was inter-ested in paying a visit. For-tunately, I had little else pressing going on (though I always encourage any folks wanting an appointment with me to make contact further in advance), and I wound up having a roughly 40-minute discussion with the Republican from Delano.

Emmer, 48, announced his run for governor last July. Married to wife Jacquie for 24 years, he is the father of six boys and one daughter. He’s served in the Minnesota House for the past five years and is now deputy leader of the Republican caucus.

“I think the next governor should know how hard it is to run a business in this state,” said Emmer, who has continued to maintain an active trial practice while serving as an elected official. “I’ve spent the better part of last 20 years defending peo-ple and their businesses against frivolous lawsuits. I think the next governor is going to need this kind of experience. … Our government is going to be so large, it’s literally sucking the atmosphere out of the private economy.”

The consolidation of some state government departments should be considered, Emmer said, and others could be scaled back considerably.

“The Met Council, for instance, was created to supervise or oversee development of sewers and airports, generally,” he explained. “I think people might be surprised to find out the Met Council is now the 26th largest employee in the state of Minnesota."

Lowering taxes along with workers compensation reform, tort reform, making permitting and licensing less excessive and eliminating unnecessary regulation are all part of Emmer’s solution to reduce the size of government. He said doing so would re-establish Minnesota as a “destination of opportunity,” as Emmer said he “read somewhere Minnesota ranks 50th in state-to-state migration.”

Emmer pointed out to me that he finished second to fellow House member Marty Seifert in a candidates’ straw poll just 11 weeks after declaring his candidacy. Out of 1,250 votes, he asserted, 90 percent had either Seifert’s or Emmer’s name on them. (People were allowed to vote for both their first and second choices.)

So, how would Emmer characterize the difference between him and Seifert?

“Marty has been in the legislature since he was 24 or 25,” Emmer said. “My life experience comes from the school of hard knocks. I’ve run a business in this state, meeting payroll … compared to a career that doesn’t include those. … I think this time (choosing the next governor), experience needs to come from outside government.”

When he first ran for the Minnesota House, Emmer said, “I was dumb enough to think it was a part-time job, and I still think it should be a part-time job. It’s not supposed to be a career; it’s supposed to be service.”

That service will include being part of what promises to be a difficult legislative session starting next month. Emmer believes most Democrats and Republicans agree that it isn’t the time to raise taxes, but isn’t sure how a bonding bill discussion will pan out.

“The big thing I will have a voice in has to do with this bonding bill,” he said. “When you can’t balance the budget, you don’t run up the credit card. … We’re starting with a $1.2 billion deficit, and there are folks who want $750,000 up to $1.5 billion in spending and charging it on the credit card. If you’re going to see any disagreements, that’s probably where they’re going to come.”

Emmer disagrees with a new bonding bill as a job-creation solution, calling it a “temporary stimulant.” The country was not built by government, but by people, he stated — and done so through “exchanging things of value.” When a government takes something of value (namely money) from people, it effectively subtracts from their ability to generate growth, he reasoned.

Emmer said he planned to attend a Worthington forum of Republican gubernatorial candidates last week that was cancelled due to the nasty weather. I know there is a candidates’ forum scheduled for Jan. 27 at the Minnesota Newspaper Association’s annual convention; I hope to see him and many other electoral hopefuls there.