Torkelson, Dahms share ideas about session

SLEEPY EYE – Republican legislators Paul Torkelson and Gary Dahms said they found the 2013 session difficult with democratic control of the House, Senate and Governor’s Office.

Both men talked about the ill effects of state government growing faster than the state economy, leading to budget cuts down the road Friday at the Brown County Congress at the Brown County Rural Electrical Association (REA) auditorium.

“It was frustrating new jobs created for more than 1,200 state employees and $3 billion in new taxes, but we still couldn’t pay off all the public school funding shift,” Torkelson said.

He said a good aspect of the new cigarette tax that adds $2.83 to each pack, is that it will cause some people to quit smoking, but will drive others out of state to buy cigarettes.

Torkelson said he would continue to support Highway 14 four-lane expansion and adding a new Highway 14 and 15 (Y) interchange when the Minnesota River bridge in New Ulm is replaced in the next few years.

He said the new state warehouse tax that would go into effect April 1, 2014, may not happen if there is enough of a state budget surplus.

Dahms said he fears many of the state’s high-income earners will change their state of legal residence due to the increased tax burden.

“Many of them don’t have to live here half the year or more because they have second homes in other states like Florida and Arizona,” Dahms said.

Despite a number of failed funding proposals, Torkelson said he supported the new Vikings stadium because he got more e-mail from people telling him to support it than they ever did for anything else.

Dahms said he finds health care costs under the new Affordable Care Act “very alarming.”

“It’s a boondoggle, a federal plan that won’t really work,” said Brown County commissioner Jim Berg.

“Federal subsidies will pay for health care costs for people that didn’t have it before, but those that have it now are forecast to get 19 to 25 percent cost hikes,” Dahms said. “It needs to work. We’ve got a ton of money invested in it. We need to be able to adjust it if it doesn’t work at first.”

Dahms said people rushing to make gift contributions to family members before the new estate tax goes into effect next month should be aware that it has a three-year look-back provision.

An REA employee thanked Dahms and Torkelson for their work to keep new solar power mandates from REA customers, which she said would have driven up power costs 30 to 40 percent.

Tim Zinniel of Sleepy Eye said the solar power industry is still in its infancy but that solar costs are half of what they were six or seven years ago.

Torkelson called the movement to unionize daycare workers “wildly unpopular.”

“Unions are important in many places including mining and other big factories,” he said.

Dahms urged people to be careful before signing union agreements.

Fritz Busch can be e-mailed at

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