House District 54A: Schoen applies work skills in Minnesota House runPolitical newcomer Dan Schoen said his professional work require skills citizens want to see in their legislators: the ability to negotiate and compromise.
By: Scott Wente, South Washington County Bulletin
Political newcomer Dan Schoen said his professional work require skills citizens want to see in their legislators: the ability to negotiate and compromise.
A Cottage Grove police officer, Schoen’s key pitch as he seeks the open District 54A House seat is that there is too much gridlock at the Legislature and not enough willingness to work together.
He said his law enforcement work requires collaboration — and it gives him a unique window into how state decisions affect people’s daily lives.
“It comes down to working with people from different backgrounds,” he said, comparing legislators from around the state working with one another to law enforcement officials from around the country working together on a case.
This is Schoen’s first run for office and he has not been involved in other campaigns. An open legislative seat provided an obvious opportunity, but Schoen said the state can do better on an array of issues from public safety to transportation, health care to taxes.
“There’s room for improvement — there just is,” he said.
Voters have told Schoen the economy and job growth are concerns. He said lawmakers can help spur private-sector job growth by approving public works spending packages that fund infrastructure projects and road and bridge construction. Those projects employ private companies using materials manufactured or produced by the private sector, he said.
Businesses also would be helped by a simplified tax code, Schoen said. Commercial tax exemptions and credits may benefit larger companies that employ enough people to find the tax incentives. Many small business owners don’t have the resources to comb through the tax code so as a result miss out, he said.
Schoen also said he would like to see a greater effort to employ military veterans. He suggested the state work to assist the placement of veterans with businesses looking to hire people.
Two other tax issues that likely could be before lawmakers next year are proposals to raise the income tax rate on high earners and expand the state sales tax to cover items purchased online. Schoen said he favors both. An income tax rate increase on the wealthy, such as a couple earning $500,000 annually, would not affect many people in south Washington County, he said.
If lawmakers next year face a state budget deficit, Schoen said the solution must include tax increases and spending cuts.
“It has to be a combination of both,” he said.
Schoen said state programs should be reviewed to see whether they still work, but he didn’t provide an example of funding he would favor cutting.
There are areas where the state could spend relatively little to generate revenue and fight crime in the process, he said. He provided the example of a state office that he said investigates roughly 500 mortgage companies for predatory lending, but has only two investigators on the job.
Like all other local legislative candidates, Schoen said the state must repay more than $2 billion owed to public schools. He suggested doing so with revenue earned from an income tax hike on top earners. Schoen also said that the Legislature should develop a more stable way of funding K-12 schools so that classroom money can’t be shifted to cover state budget deficits except in emergency situations.
Schoen has been a Cottage Grove police officer for 11 years and has experience as a firefighter and with undercover drug work, emergency response teams and hostage negotiations.
If elected, Schoen said he would have an interest in working on public safety issues. He said he would favor enhanced penalties for thieves who steal heavy painkillers from people with cancer or other serious health conditions.
Schoen said he also would like to see a tightening of predatory sex offender notification guidelines. Current law allows some sex offenders to be released from custody without being assigned a risk level, depending on how they are sentenced, he said.
Schoen said he would favor pressuring state transportation officials to allow construction of a “slip ramp” at 80th Street in Cottage Grove, making West Point Douglas Road more accessible from Highway 61. That could help boost economic development along West Point Douglas Road, he said.
Schoen said there is a perception that all Democrats want tighter gun control and don’t support the Second Amendment.
“Lawful people of sound mind, noncriminal, there’s no need to take away their guns,” he said.
Schoen did not provide examples of issues on which he disagrees with the DFL Party, but said his votes would be guided by what he thinks is best for the district.
“I would take each issue and bring it to the merits of what does it mean to this district,” he said.
Schoen said he will vote against the proposed constitutional amendment requiring that voters provide photo ID at the polling place and the other proposed amendment banning same-sex marriage.
Schoen said he would have preferred that an independent commission develop recommendations on the voter ID issue to the Legislature. That type of process could have made it a bipartisan proposal, he said.
Schoen said he opposes the marriage amendment, and he would support legalizing gay marriage should it ever come to a vote in the Legislature.