State Representative - District 8B Candidate: Bob Cunniff, DFL
Q: Please list your background and specific qualifications for this position.
A: My name is Bob Cunniff, and I am a retired elementary teacher and coach of 35 years in the Alexandria school system. I am a 1976 graduate of the University of Minnesota. I have also worked at KXRA as a sports broadcaster. I have been a 4H and FCA volunteer, along with being a Sunday school teacher and confirmation mentor.
I have been married 33 years to Darice, who teaches kindergarten. I guess you could call us an education family. We truly value education.
We have three grown children who all grew up in this area: Chanda, Kevin, Bryce and one grandchild, Keegan. We were married here, worked here, and raised our family in this great area. We love the moral values, work ethic, the respect and generosity of this area.
I have never been involved in politics before but have always been interested in issues and how Minnesota government works. I look forward to the challenges of the job of being a public servant.
Q: The public is tired of the partisan politics that often bog down the work of the Legislature. Specifically, how will you work with legislators from the other political party to get things done?
A: We need a legislator who will work for all people and that includes the middle class, a person who will work across the aisle toward new solutions and have respect for the office.
For government to work effectively, compromise has to happen. It is not a sign of weakness. If we want things to work, we need people who are thoughtful, creative, considerate and able to see the big picture.
We need politicians who are willing to look at evidence and statistics, and use that data to decide how to vote on an issue.
Telling the truth and getting the facts correct is important. We need to be good listeners and to work together and be considerate of everybody in our district, not just the people who support us.
People don't want government shutdowns. It is important to find common ground and build from that so we can do the people's business of running our state. That is what people expect from their elected officials.
Q: Many people saw significant increases in property taxes this year. If elected, what will you do to lower the property taxes for average/middle class home owners?
A: My opponent eliminated the Homestead Credit and replaced it with the Homestead Market Value Exclusion. This replacement increased property taxes on homes, farms and businesses by $291 million. It contributed to business tax increases of more than 7 percent in our cities and farm tax increases of more than 10 percent. Property taxes increased three times more in Greater Minnesota than in the Twin Cities. Local government aid (LGA) is property tax relief for cities paid by the state. State funding for LGA has been cut 25 percent over the last 10 years and has remained flat since 2010. Eliminating or reducing LGA will weaken regional centers and small cities. Taxes will go up and services will go down, encouraging people and businesses to leave Greater Minnesota for other states or the Twin Cities metro area.
The Legislature has used property tax relief programs to help balance the state budget, which has resulted in much higher property taxes, especially for Greater Minnesota. We need to stop balancing the state budget with property tax increases. Restoring LGA cuts would benefit our area and keep our property taxes down.
Q: Is the state taking the right approach to battling aquatic invasive species, such as zebra mussels? What more can be done?
A: The Legislature has made protecting our waterways from aquatic invasive species (AIS) a priority. They have toughened AIS penalties, secured additional funding for enhanced enforcement of existing laws, and found new funding in the Legacy Bill for Asian carp barriers on the Mississippi River and a new invasive species research institute at the University of Minnesota.
The new laws are good, and I agree with what the Legislature has done. By educating the public, enforcing new laws, and research, we can slow down the AIS problem.
Still, there is no silver bullet to solve this problem. The boats coming into the Great Lakes have caused many of our AIS problems over the years, including zebra mussels. There are new laws going into effect that will help that problem.
Q: What priority will you give to energy efficiency and renewable energies? What energy future do you envision for upcoming generations in Minnesota?
A: The Renewable Energy Standard (RES), which was passed in 2007, mandates 25 percent renewable generation by 2025 for all Minnesota electric utilities. This encourages our utilities to work toward renewable energy. Some want to be more aggressive and raise the percent of renewable on the utilities. Others want to weaken the mandate. At this time, I would leave it as is to run its course. I am taking a balanced approach. It can be reevaluated at a later time.
Some of the best options for the future for renewable energy are wind, hydro, biomass and solar. I don't believe we should have a certain percentage of the mandate include a certain type of renewable. We also should do as much as possible to protect the environment, but we need to make sure we don't put too much pressure on the consumer and business.
Minnesota is home to abundant renewable energy sources that are beneficial to the environment and have the potential to create good paying jobs that cannot be outsourced. Minnesota's clean energy economy is a growing segment of the private sector economy.