Jerry Hertaus (R) is running against Todd Mikkelson (DFL) in a race for the Minnesota State House of Representatives District 33A seat.
Please tell us a little bit about yourself. Share something most people don’t know about you.
As a younger person, I envisioned that my career would be in the field of music. I was a charter member of the St. Louis Park Orchestra program and member for eight years. I was additionally a member of the Metropolitan Youth Orchestra, during college played bass in various bands and did jobbing for different stage shows, bands and productions. I then joined the Minneapolis Civic Orchestra for a couple of years in adulthood. A severe automobile accident while jobbing in Wisconsin, dramatically changed my life resulting in a summer spent at Methodist Hospital. I became interested in health care, attended the University of Minnesota and later transferred to St. Mary’s graduating with a degree in Nursing in order to pursue becoming a nurse anesthetist.
What sorts of thoughts come to mind when you think of Lake Minnetonka?
I have memories of a less populated lake, many modest little summer cottages mostly on Upper Lake, swimmers itch from swimming in its waters and many memories of fishing with relatives when fishing was a more dominant activity on the lake than the current boating, skiing, wakeboarding and other recreational uses prevalent today. I also realize today and years later, unlike the many things we take for granted in our youth, the precious resource and asset our area lakes are to our district and region. The lakes and water resources of our region adds immense value to our communities and surrounding property values, all of which together,indirectly provides added financial resources not available to other areas and locals. Protecting our lakes and water resources is essential to maintaining the high value assets that they are.
Are invasive species a local, state or federal issue? Or is it a mix? Describe your views.
Invasive species and the threat that they pose to our water resources should be managed as an integrated effort by local, regional and state governments. Public waters do not belong exclusively to riparian owners adjacent to its shores, but are of benefit to all of the area’sresidents and beyond. Funding to combat the known threats that invasive species and total maximum daily loads (TMDL’s) create will require financial resources which cannot be sustained exclusively by properties lying within specific watersheds. As a mayor, I understand the burdens on local property tax payers resulting from unfunded mandates by higher levels of government to clean up impaired waters. The federal government needs to take primary responsibility to protect the tributaries and their upstream creeks and watersheds from becoming threatened by the infestation of invasive species present and moving upstream upon our major navigable rivers throughout the nation.
What is the most common issue people talk with you about while campaigning? What do you tell them?
The most common theme that I hear from residents while I have been campaigning is that the spending and growth in county and state government is out of control. Most folks understand that Minnesota’s future is threatened by this unsustainable growth in government spending. I explain to them that Minnesota state spending has outpaced inflation and that revenues at the state level have increase by approximately 45% over the last ten years. Most will reply that “my income has not increased by 45% during this same time.” According to the Tax Foundation, local property taxes, individual income tax rates, sales tax rates and corporate tax rates together make Minnesota rank 45th among the 50 states as least competitive in the nation.
How do you feel about the current property tax levels? What about school district taxes (understanding the State Legislature has no control over them)?
Current property tax levels are of concern to most district residents that I have talked with. As a mayor, I know that most communities within the district rely on the property tax levy for approximately 93-97% of municipal revenues. Where you reside within the district and the local government units (LGU’s) that have taxing authority upon your property will affect your local property tax levy accordingly. In addition, the amount or burden that you pay is also a function of the density (households) present in your community and within a certain school district. Areas with the highest tax capacities and densities generally enjoy the least burden per household. However, due to the higher the average area home values in 33A than the rest of the county, most of our communities within the district are “donor” communities with respect to the payment of county taxes, which constitutes on average approximately 40% of your local property tax bill. A more conservative county board of commissioners would provide much needed help in reigning in county spending.
If the funding were available, what projects—either shovel ready or on the drawing board—would you advocate dedicating it to inside the district?
This question is a hypothetical. On a regional basis, State Highway 55 which runs through the northern part of the district was scheduled to be improved to four lanes as part of a 20-year Capital Improvement Project. MnDot has now pushed this project back which was only a few years away, to the 50-year plan. This corridor is essential to promoting development of the northwest part of the district as well as relieving traffic congestion present from a transient Wright County population in its daily travels. Other similar improvements to other transportation corridors within the district are also needed. Shipping goods and services is essential to growing jobs and the private sector economy locally and regionally. Resources are wasted for labor and equipment being tied up in traffic congestion. These problems cannot be solved by light rail which will only benefit a specific corridor and benefitting recipients.
Are you satisfied with the public safety services being provided to residents inside the district?
Public Safety Services are directly in control of local government units and are decided by its residents and their representative leaders. Many communities currently have joint powers agreements with neighboring communities and are sharing services such as fire and police protection. The advent of new but often very costly equipment designed to combat fires and save lives often demands efficiencies and consolidations. Neighboring fire departments working together, can provide a broader array and compliment of equipment which would be of mutual benefit to both by sharing needed equipment that is not or likely not going to be used at the same time. These are great examples of cooperation between communities and efficiencies that taxpayers often demand.
How would you encourage the average citizen to become more engaged in state government?
We live in an age where information is readily available and almost instantaneously available. Citizens can always do their part in good governance by keeping themselves informed. Responsible citizens will separate hyperbole from fact and make good decisions based upon sound information. Citizen involvement should be viewed as a responsibility to good citizenship.
Open forum. Why should voters cast their ballot for you this November?
I will bring many decades of successful private sector experience as a business owner, employer, entrepreneur and job creator to the Capitol with firsthand knowledge and experience of policies necessary to grow Minnesota’s economy. Too many politicians make decisions on raising taxes first, without ever having known the struggles and sacrifices families and small businesses must face respecting the choices that they must make in order to earn their living. Government does not earn money it simply levies it from you. I respectfully ask for your vote on Nov. 6.