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Local real estate agents hear legislative candidates' views

Legislative candidates addressing questions before an audience of local Realtors are, from left, Rod Skoe (DFL) and Dennis Moser (GOP), Senate Dist. 2; Rep. Dave Hancock (GOP), Dist. 2A, and Brita Sailer (DFL) and Steve Green (GOP), candidates for the Dist. 2B House seat. (Jean Ruzicka / Enterprise)

Area real estate agents gathered Friday to hear updates on the 2012 legislative session and receive a preview of what's ahead, with legislative candidates addressing questions.

The Minnesota Association of Realtors hosted the session, Paul Eger of the MNAR noted all House and Senate seats are up for election this fall, with 28 Republicans and 19 Democrats retiring.

A state budget deficit of $1.1 billion is looming for the next biennium.

Governor Mark Dayton has been holding meetings on a tax reform package for the upcoming session that will be "an important issue" for agents, he said.

Key issues will be possible changes to mortgage interest deduction (MID) and imposing sales tax on goods and services that are currently exempt.

Nearly half of Minnesotans itemize and claim MID and two-thirds of homeowners with a mortgage claim the MID, Eger said.

Sales tax on services could go in several directions, he said.

Steve Green, a Republican running for the House 2B seat, pointed out this area is known for its farms and forests, "but we're outnumbered down there. We need to get them up here, to see if we can get support from those who outnumber us."

Brita Sailer, the DFL candidate running for the House 2B seat, said a "major focus" should be working together on issues. "There's too much division. Every interest group looks at their issue...and it comes around to bite us.

"Property taxes are one of the biggest issues," Sailer said. "We need to make sure people in this area can live here."

Sailer also pointed out the area's demographics are changing with the population aging, specifically noting a turnover in homes and need for public transportation.

Dave Hancock, a Republican incumbent running for the House 2A seat, noted his district has been expanded to include Hubbard County.

He acknowledged a "division between the metro and Greater Minnesota.

"My job is to bring not only money, but implement resources to local units of government."

Hancock indicated Greater Minnesota should be in a better position to draw younger families.

Dennis Moser, a GOP candidate for Senate Dist. 2, said he's a "constitutional conservative who promotes personal liberty." He advocated "removing roadblocks to business. I'm in favor of free market solutions to problems."

Rod Skoe, the incumbent candidate in Senate Dist. 2, who farms near Clearbrook, noted a large percentage of legislators are not engaged in an outside occupation.

"I think being a legislator should be part time, they should be in a form of business," he said. "That brings a perspective of doing what's good for the area."

Skoe said he was "happy to play a role in bringing the Governor's Fishing Opener to the area.

"You live in an area everyone wants to visit," he said, noting he is working for an appropriation in the bonding bill for the city's well water issues.