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A look at the candidates seeking election to North Dakota's Legislature from Grand Forks' District 43

In the race for District 43 House, two candidates will be chosen from a field of four, including Democrat Mary Adams, Republican Ethan Harsell, Democrat Zac Ista and Republican Eric J. Murphy. In the race for District 43 Senate, one candidate will be elected from a field of two, including Democrat JoNell Bakke and Republican Jeff Barta.

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Following is a look at the candidates who seek election to the state Legislature in North Dakota’s District 43.

District 43 generally encompasses the area in Grand Forks from DeMers Avenue on the north to 32nd Avenue on the south, and from I-29 on the west to roughly 20th Street on the east. Its southeast portion also includes a thumb of area roughly from 24th Avenue on the north to 40th Avenue on the south and Columbia Road on the west to Washington Street on the east.

Absentee voting began Sept. 29 and runs through Nov. 7. Voters who wish to have an absentee ballot mailed should call 701-780-8200.

Early voting will take place at the Alerus Center, entrance 6, from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Nov. 1-4 and 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Nov. 5.

Voting on Election Day will be from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. at the following sites in Grand Forks:

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● Alerus Center Voting Center, 1200 42nd St S, Entrance 8, Grand Forks, ND

● Holy Family Voting Center, 1018 18th Ave S, Grand Forks, ND

● Home of Economy Voting Center, 1508 N Washington St, Grand Forks, ND

● ICON Arena/GF Park District Office Voting Center, 1060 47th Ave S, Grand Forks, ND.

In the race for District 43 House, two candidates will be chosen from a field of four, including Democrat Mary Adams, Republican Ethan Harsell, Democrat Zac Ista and Republican Eric J. Murphy.

In the race for District 43 Senate, one candidate will be elected from a field of two, including Democrat JoNell Bakke and Republican Jeff Barta.

Mary Adams, Grand Forks

Seeking: Election as one of two members of the House of Representatives for District 43.

Political party: Democrat

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Occupation: Realtor

Mary Adams Grand Forks 2022.jpg
Mary Adams, of Grand Forks.
Submitted photo

Why are you running for Legislature?
I am running for my second term to continue to bring fairness to the citizens of North Dakota. So many good bills were defeated the last two sessions just because they were brought forth by our minority. We will hopefully bring them to the Legislature once again.

Do you have any specific legislation you would like to sponsor or back in the coming session? Health care, child care funding for pre-K education, teacher recruitment and retention, school lunch funding, funding for senior programs, equal rights for all North Dakotans, including women’s right to privacy with their doctors or health care provider.

Much discussion lately has been focused on the state’s labor shortage. Should this be addressed? What can/should lawmakers do about it? 

This should be a major topic for the Legislature. Laborers are the backbone of so many industries. We need to help train workers in every field.

Do you agree with Gov. Burgum’s recent announcement that North Dakota should replace the state income tax with a flat tax? Why? And if not, do you have an alternative idea or solution?

A flat tax, while it sounds good in theory, may not work for all. Question in question: what determines the rate if based on income, and what determines income? I am afraid the burden will once again fall on the middle class. The current state tax rate is based on what individuals pay in federal tax. As always, reaching a guideline that is fair to all taxpayers is the issue we in the Legislature must work to achieve.

What should be the Legislature’s main goal in the coming session or two? 

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Peace and harmony sounds so 1970s, but it is what is needed. We as legislators need to work together for North Dakota – not just our own beliefs. Only through cooperation will we be able to accomplish this.

Ethan Harsell, Grand Forks

Seeking: Election as one of two members of the House of Representatives for District 43.

Political party: Republican

Ethan Harsell, of Grand Forks..jpeg

Occupation: Student at UND and teacher at United Day Nursery.

Why are you running for Legislature: I am running for the same reason that everyone should – to make a positive impact on my district, my city and my state.

There are quite a few long-standing challenges. I believe a fresh perspective is required to address issues facing District 43. The three that I am focusing on are education, health care and our economy.

Our education system needs to rebuild itself with a culture of excellence, and understanding where we can improve requires someone who has been through the system in its current form. Having graduated from K-12 less than four years ago, and being currently enrolled at UND, I see the challenges, the progress and the opportunities for improvement each day.

When it comes to health care, I've witnessed first-hand the accesibility problem, which unfortunately led to the suicide of a good friend, and I know the challenges the social media generation experiences daily in dealing with our mental health, especially as we compare ourselves to others in an unprecedented way. To treat people, you have understand where they are starting from, and given the large increases in youth suicide, I feel that I am well equipped to have these conversations in Bismarck.

Finally, our economy will face challenges in the coming years. Out-of-control inflation must be addressed, as must the need for affordable housing. A 1% increase in interest rates raises the monthly cost of a starter home by $200. Given that this has an impact on our community, the North Dakota economy must begin to create high-paying jobs.

I believe to make a long-term difference, young people must be involved in formal political processes and have a say in shaping today's and tomorrow's politics. Encompassing political participation is not only a fundamental political and democratic right, but it is also critical to the development of stable and peaceful societies and to policies that address the specific needs of younger generations. As Gov. Burgum noted when discussing the difficulty in addressing our childcare issue: "The state's average age is 35. ... That is not the average age of the Legislature."

I seek to bring that fresh perspective.

Do you have any specific legislation you would like to sponsor or back in the coming session? Behavioral/mental health is a serious problem in our state and across the country, but there exist sensible solutions. According to the CDC, we had one of the highest rates of suicide increase in America from 1999 to 2016 and we need to reverse that trend. Everyone knows someone who is struggling; whether it is a friend, a family member, or a coworker, and they are unable to receive the assistance they require due to a lack of access.

I intend to work to enhance and invest in our addiction recovery and mental health care services. Specifically, I would be working to introduce legislation to directly increase funding for local care in Grand Forks. As of now, there is only one opioid addiction clinic in our state, which is unacceptable. We must provide services for struggling citizens and their bereaved families.

Much discussion lately has been focused on the state’s labor shortage. Should this be addressed?What can/should lawmakers do about it? 

The labor shortage is caused by two simple realities: we do not train people for the jobs that exist in our state and we suffer constant "brain drain" to other states. We must recognize that we should not force young people to attend college, but rather train them for the career path that is best for them. The labor shortage was estimated to be 12,000 people in 2018. ( North Dakota Labor Market Trends | Center for the Study of Public Choice and Private Enterprise | NDSU ), while more than 28,000 students are attending UND and NDSU, to speak nothing of our strong technical colleges and vocational institutions.

This means with proper training and retention, we should be providing 7,000 additional qualified people to our labor pool per year. We do not, however, because young people are leaving North Dakota either due to mismatched education or a lack of affordability and opportunity. By keeping Grand Forks affordable so young families can stay here or move here we address the latter, and ending one-size-fits-all education ends the former. The next generation of workers needs a home in North Dakota, and it’s our responsibility to ensure there's adequate opportunity for them to do so.

Do you agree with Gov. Burgum’s recent announcement that North Dakota should replace the state income tax with a flat tax? Why? And if not, do you have an alternative idea or solution?

Governor Burgum unveiled a historic plan to reduce individual income taxes, saving North Dakota taxpayers more than $250 million per year. This strategy has my full support because this will allow North Dakotans to build their own prosperity. The flat tax would eliminate the income tax for more than half of all families, directly stimulating the economy and providing breathing room against inflation. I think the residents of District 43 could use the breathing room.

What should be the Legislature’s main goal in the coming session or two? 

Creating a culture and legacy of excellence in our education systems, ensuring access to health care, particularly in regards to mental health, and building our own economy that works for the next generation while addressing the long-standing and systemic labor issues in our state.

Zac Ista, Grand Forks

Seeking: Election as one of two members of the House of Representatives for District 43.

Political party: Democrat

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Rep. Zachary Ista, D-Grand Forks. Photo provided by North Dakota Legislative Council

Occupation: Assistant state’s attorney for Grand Forks County.

Why are you running for Legislature?

Being the father of a toddler and an infant has brought the issues keeping families in Grand Forks awake at night directly into my own life.

I am running for re-election to take on these issues so that every North Dakota family has the opportunity to achieve their own version of the American Dream. This means fighting for access to affordable childcare, dealing with rising costs at the grocery store and gas station, fully funding top-notch public education, protecting women’s reproductive freedom and health care privacy, and keeping our communities safe.

As a legislator, I quickly learned that the best way to do all that is by listening to your constituents and your colleagues to find common ground on the issues impacting our state. That’s why I’ll work with anyone from any party on solutions to move North Dakota forward. My constituents in District 43 demand and deserve nothing less. If I earn re-election to the North Dakota House of Representatives, I’ll bring balance, experience and leadership back to Bismarck. That’s exactly why I’m running to serve my neighbors in District 43.

Do you have any specific legislation you would like to sponsor or back in the coming session?

I am excited to build off the work we accomplished on the interim Health Care and Higher Education Committees. On the Health Care Committee, we advanced a bill to lower prescription drug prices by referencing our state’s drug prices to the much cheaper prices our neighbors in Canada enjoy. We know too many families – especially seniors – pay too much for their prescriptions, and this proposal is a very promising way to bring down those costs.

We also advanced a bill to expand the use of community health workers in the state, which will allow more people to get wraparound services in their home and help them stay out of the hospital, which also lowers health care costs.

On the Higher Education Committee, we advanced legislation that will address our ongoing teacher shortage by increasing state grants and scholarships, incentivizing paraprofessionals to become classroom teachers, and relieving teachers’ student debt burden.

Last session, I helped pass legislation that created a Veterans Treatment Court here in Grand Forks. That court is now on the verge of accepting its first participants. Next session, I will pursue a tax credit for businesses who hire justice-involved veterans, because we know good jobs are critical to the success of veterans’ ongoing recovery.

I also plan to bring legislation to address a gap in our criminal laws that makes it hard to convict domestic abusers who prey on their victims by using mental and emotional abuse instead of physical violence. I will use my experience as a prosecutor to push legislation that better protects children who live in homes where one or both parents expose them to domestic violence.

Much discussion lately has been focused on the state’s labor shortage. Should this be addressed? What can/should lawmakers do about it? 

Finding solutions to our state’s workforce crisis has to be one of the Legislature’s top priorities when we reconvene in January. This issue impacts every aspect of life here in Grand Forks and across the state.

The first challenge is to support policies that create good, safe, high-paying jobs that incentivize workers to come to and stay in our North Dakota. Anyone who works full-time should be able to afford to raise their kids, pay their rent or mortgage, and put supper on the table.

But the workforce crisis doesn’t just impact those looking for a new or better job; it’s a quality-of-life issue for everyone. We’ve all waited too long for a table at a restaurant, encountered a drive-thru window that closed too early, or delayed repairs on our house or car because no appointments were available. It’s frustrating, inconvenient and unsustainable.

As lawmakers, there are definitely things we can do. First, we can help moms and dads get back into the workforce by making it easier to find and afford childcare. Second, we can keep moms and dads in the workforce by enacting paid family leave policies, so no worker has to choose between a paycheck or caring for a sick loved one. Third, we must invest in the pipelines that create new workers.

At the high school level, this means continuing to support career and technical education, like the academy soon to be built in Grand Forks. In higher education, we need to support our two- and four-year institutions as they train the next generation of truck drivers, energy workers, health care aides, nurses, and teachers. In all of these areas, we also have to partner with the businesses and labor unions who spend every day thinking about these critical issues. If we do these things, North Dakota will be on a path to solving our workforce crisis.

Do you agree with Gov. Burgum’s recent announcement that North Dakota should replace the state income tax with a flat tax? Why? And if not, do you have an alternative idea or solution?

The flat tax proposal is unfair to middle-class families. It’s just another windfall to millionaires and the wealthiest North Dakotans. That’s why I do not support it.

The numbers don’t lie. If this proposal had been in place in 2019, families making up to $66,000 would have received an average tax cut of just $154. That’s less than $7 extra in their paychecks every two weeks. But the richest taxpayers (those making more than $433,000)? They would have seen an average tax cut of over $4,600! That’s a nearly 30 times greater benefit for the wealthiest North Dakotans. For a millionaire, that tax cut jumps to over $12,000, a whopping 78 times greater benefit than the average working-class family would receive. In total, 25% of the entire cost of this proposal would go to the richest 2.5% of taxpayers. That’s not fair – and it’s not right.

This proposal is also out of touch with everyday North Dakotans. I have knocked on thousands of doors in District 43. Not a single person has identified the state income tax as a top concern.

They know that an income tax where higher earners have to pay their fair share provides a firm foundation for our state budget that isn’t subject to the wild swings we can see in our energy and agricultural markets.

Instead, what voters in Grand Forks want is real, lasting property tax reform. That’s the tax driving seniors from their homes and preventing young workers from buying their first home. And that’s the tax problem we should solve next session.

But make no mistake, I also do support – and have supported – targeted income tax cuts. Last session, we eliminated state income tax on Social Security benefits for our seniors. In the 2021 special session, I also supported a temporary income tax cut of up to $700 per family for two years. During a time of strong state finances, like we have now, I would continue supporting targeted tax cuts like these.

What should be the Legislature’s main goal in the coming session or two?

First, we must solve our workforce crisis with policies that support working families and help grow the small businesses that are the backbone of our community. We have to build and grow the job creation pipelines that will put more teachers in our classrooms, more nurses in our hospitals, and more truck drivers on our roads. Second, we need to prioritize investing in North Dakota rather than sending our money out-of-state or overseas. The citizens of North Dakota wisely voted to establish a Legacy Fund, and they are rightly demanding that we now use that Fund to support families here with better infrastructure, better jobs, better education, better childcare, and better health care. Third, we have to lower the costs of health care and prescription drugs and finally fix our crumbling mental and behavioral health systems. Too many families are avoiding or delaying care still because they can’t afford co-pays and deductibles, and too many families find they have nowhere to turn when a loved one is struggling with addiction or untreated mental illness.

We can and must do better.

Eric J. Murphy, Grand Forks

Seeking: Election as one of two members of the House of Representatives for District 43.

Political party: Republican

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Eric Murphy

Occupation: Faculty member UND; CEO and CSO of Krampade, LLC; senior VP of research and development for Agragen, LLC.

Why are you running for Legislature? 

For years, I have been encouraged by my colleagues and some members of the Republican Party to throw my hat into the political arena. My service on the State Board of Higher Education demonstrated my ability to compromise and to provide needed discussion to help move pivotal ideas forward. More importantly, it was very gratifying to act in a capacity that could help our institutions of higher education become better.

In discussions with the late Lonnie Laffen, he noted how his time in the North Dakota Senate was one of his life’s highlights. He felt that we often get to a point in life where we want to serve your community in a very meaningful way. His advice resonated with me, and our talks made me think that my time to run is now.

Hence, after discussions over the years and recently with Republican Party leadership, I decided to run for a House seat. There are positive things that need to happen in our state, and we have an abundance of opportunity ahead of us. So if elected, I look forward to serving District 43 in the House, the greater Grand Forks community, and the citizens of the great state of North Dakota.

Do you have any specific legislation you would like to sponsor or back in the coming session? 

I will support the continuation of programs designed to continue our nation-leading efforts in creating an entrepreneurial environment through programs like the Bioscience Innovation Grant program and the LIFT program. These programs are important to help diversify our state’s economy, building a more solid foundation for the future.

While I think it is a tall task for this session, I will work to establish the North Dakota Research Institute. This is a sustainable approach to creating an institute to award grants to foster research and scholarship across disciplines in higher education. The long-term strategy is to provide a fervent environment for moving research endeavors from higher education into spin-out companies in our communities. While on the surface it appears that this program is solely focused in the areas of the sciences and engineering, a critical component is to stimulate research and scholarship in other areas, such as the arts and humanities. Further, it will offer experiential learning opportunities for our students and can be used to attract and retain talented faculty. It is a creative mechanism with a long-term strategy to integrate higher education into the diversification of the North Dakota economy.

For mental health and addiction services, we have a broken system. Our hospitals lack the ability to have beds dedicated to delivering in hospital mental health care services. We must establish anchor facilities in our larger cities and help our rural hospitals obtain the needed facilities for short-term care. Further, a lot of our citizens are struggling with mental health, especially depression and anxiety, which are best treated using an outpatient strategy. This may require an out-of-the-box approach, such as mobile clinics offering services in our smaller communities. A similar approach must be taken with addiction services. But we need to act on these issues quickly and decisively.

Another area of importance is K-12 education, where we must continue to grow vocational education opportunities. We must build a culture of excellence, recognizing that excellent schools are attractive to individuals contemplating moving to North Dakota.

Much discussion lately has been focused on the state’s labor shortage. Should this be addressed? What can/should lawmakers do about it?  

Short answer, yes. The longer answer is how can lawmakers tackle this issue?

I think this requires some creative thinking. We moved here in August of 2000 after having lived in Ohio, Texas, Maryland, Arizona, and California. These are all states with very different weather patterns and frankly no North Dakota winter! So how do we sell living in North Dakota? What is it that we have found to be so beneficial and satisfying living here?

I think most folks in the United States want a safe community in which to raise their children and one in which there is opportunity for themselves and their children. They want good schools; they may want to avoid the pitfalls of education that is so pervasive in their current community. They may long for an opportunity for higher education at an affordable price for themselves and their children. Higher education is a true bargain in North Dakota.

People want a community in which they can be part of and integrate into. They want a safe community, one where there is low crime and one in which the law officers are still respected. They want to wave to a neighbor and to a police officer and get a wave back. They want low taxes. In North Dakota, taxes are very low compared to most of the regions my family has lived.

Many people want a government that doesn’t interfere with every aspect of their life and one that doesn’t tell them how to raise their children. They want freedom!

Some individuals may want to start a business, and in North Dakota, we’re one of the most entrepreneur-friendly states in the union. They want opportunity.

We offer all these elements in North Dakota, so we need to sell our state and the opportunities it offers, rather than trying to chase trends or be the next great thing. So, we need to sell folks on what opportunity lies within the state. The same thing that attracted the pioneers will attract folks in 2022 and beyond. Yes, the opportunity for a great life.

Do you agree with Gov. Burgum’s recent announcement that North Dakota should replace the state income tax with a flat tax? Why? And if not, do you have an alternative idea or solution? 

No, I don’t agree that a 1.5% flat tax should replace our current progressive tax system. Although this proposal would eliminate income tax for about 60% of North Dakotans, what will we do when the oil revenue declines in 15-20 years, or a perfect storm occurs again with a reduction in oil revenue coupled with a reduction in commodity prices?

Further, as a community, we all need to help with the tax burden one way or another. A progressive tax allows those who have more means to pay a bit more than their neighbor who might be struggling. A flat tax does not do this; rather, it makes everyone’s burden the same. I know my position is not politically expedient, but I have said on the record that I would be honest with constituents. Hence, at this point I do not support Governor Burgum’s flat tax proposal.

However, I think revenue stabilization is critically important and witnessed the devastating effects of low-priced oil coupled with low agriculture commodity prices on higher education while serving as the faculty board member on the State Board of Higher Education. I saw the impact on other state agencies as well. I don’t think it is prudent for the state to position itself to suffer through another round of deep budget cuts just to keep taxes low.

While I am a fiscal conservative, I do believe that government exists in part to provide services to its citizens to promote a functional and healthy community. We can provide tax relief when possible and the last session we saw how that came to fruition. The $750 income tax credit was a good way to navigate these two extremes between higher taxes or a flat tax. Further, buying down individuals’ property tax is a good idea when revenue from other tax streams permits this to occur. However, this gives the flexibility to remove such credits and buydowns when other revenue sources are reduced. Flexibility is key.

What should be the Legislature’s main goal in the coming session or two?

The major goals of the Legislature should be to build a culture of excellence in K-12 education, improve our state’s economic diversity by building our own businesses, and to focus on mental health care and addiction services, where an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.

JoNell Bakke, Grand Forks

Seeking: Election as senator for District 43.

Political party: Democrat

jonell bakke.jpg
District 43 Sen. JoNell Bakke.

Occupation: Elementary/special education teacher K-8.

Why are you running for Legislature? 

Service to my community. I have served in the ND Senate for eight years and have become comfortable and familiar with the process and procedures. This experience makes it easier for me to draft and carry bills through the legislature. I have been able to establish relationships with not only legislators and staff in the capital but with individuals across the state. These accomplishments have allowed me to achieve a level of success that has allowed me to impact the quality of life for individuals in my community and across the state.

Do you have any specific legislation you would like to sponsor or back in the coming session? 

I am planning on sponsoring a bill on preschool for 3- to 4-year-olds through the public schools. I am also looking co-sponsoring bills on child care, family leave and juvenile justice reform.

Much discussion lately has been focused on the state’s labor shortage. Should this be addressed? What can/should lawmakers do about it?   

Absolutely, we need to address our state's workforce shortage, including the teacher shortages in the state. We need to address the reasons for these workforce shortages, such as lack of quality child care, low wages and adequate training/education.

I have worked on the Higher Education Interim Committee, where we spent an extensive amount of time on workforce issues and drafted several bills to provide scholarships for training at all levels.

Do you agree with Gov. Burgum’s recent announcement that North Dakota should replace the state income tax with a flat tax? Why? And if not, do you have an alternative idea or solution?   

No, I do not agree. A flat tax only benefits those at the top income levels. The citizens of North Dakota have voted numerous times to leave state tax alone. There are other tax structures that could be looked at to generate more income. I would like to see a complete study of the North Dakota tax structure and adjustments made based on that study.

What should be the Legislature’s main goal in the coming session or two?

In my opinion, we need to stabilize the wor force issues and address infrastructures needs across the state. This would include making sure our educational system, pre K-college, is adequately staffed and funded.

Jeff Barta, Grand Forks

Seeking: Election as senator for District 43.

Political party: Republican

Barta.Jeff2019.jpg
Jeff Barta, of Grand Forks.
Submitted photo

Occupation: Licensed athletic trainer and small business owner as a partner at Achieve Therapy, and Select Properties.

Why are you running for Legislature?

Throughout my years residing in Grand Forks, I have made a conscious effort to be an active member of the community. My involvement began with being an active participant in my church and faith community and extended to past roles across the city. I served as a volunteer with Special Olympics North Dakota, a director role with The Chamber and most recently, as board president of St. Joseph’s Social Care. Every experience has given me a different view and perspective on what makes our community a vibrant and desirable place to live, work and play.

I consider my participation in the Grand Forks School Districts Long Term Planning Task Force during the summer of 2020 the deciding factor in me entering the political arena. It was that experience that showed me the disconnect between our elected leaders and the general populace. There is a distrust that exists within our community when it comes to how our tax dollars are spent and I believe we need to be better stewards of our tax dollars. I believe that my experience has prepared me to do just that in the North Dakota Senate.

Do you have any specific legislation you would like to sponsor or back in the coming session?

The most frequently cited issues that I have heard when visiting with the constituents of District 43 have been the economy and mental health. By far, the state of the economy is their number one concern. People are worried about the rising cost of goods and how far they can stretch a dollar to cover the cost of living. It has been estimated that the inflation observed under President Biden has cost the average family over $5,200 a year, equating to a cost-of-living hike or about 10% of the median household income.

One thing that dips into the pockets of many is property taxes and that is an area that we can impact through legislation. A group led by Sen. Don Schaible released a proposal on 9/26/22 that I believe has merit. I have not had the opportunity to explore it deeply yet, but on the surface, it appears to be something that could be beneficial to not only the people of District 43, but to all North Dakotans.

In regard to mental health, success starts with access. Unfortunately, one of the issues I am hearing is the limited resources available within our community to treat people who are suffering. People have to travel outside the area, or worse yet, do not receive the help they need in treating their illness. I believe we can do better and would work with providers in our community to develop a plan that would allow us to deliver these services closer to home. It is imperative that we treat people where they are, as this allows them to leverage their personal network, and builds the foundation for successful long-term recovery.

Much discussion lately has been focused on the state’s labor shortage. Should this be addressed? What can/should lawmakers do about it?

The answer to the first part of the question is yes. In fact, it needs to be addressed and I believe legislators can play a role in facilitating a solution. This is a multi-faceted issue that does not have a single solution. It varies by industry and by community, but I believe there are two different paths we can take to address this issue.

1) Developing ways to keep our young home-grown talent right here in North Dakota. They need a reason to stay.

2) Give people a reason to move to North Dakota.

A key part of our campaign is a focus on the former – it has always been said that our best export is our people. I believe we should be building our own, and now that we have built the talent, it is now time to build the industry to support it. Every opportunity we create in North Dakota allows us to keep our young, well-educated populace, and also makes us the envy of other states. As a result, it becomes a feedback loop, where keeping home-grown talent increases our national reputation which subsequently incentivizes moving to North Dakota, which then increases the funding and opportunity to further solidify our young talent.

Here in Grand Forks, I see the public/private collaboration between UND and Grand Sky as one example of “Building our Own.” Prior to 2000 there was no UAS industry, and Grand Forks became an early leader by setting the trend as opposed to chasing it. We procured investment by the state, county and city, which not only created opportunities for our young professionals to stay here, but to also attract people to Grand Forks from all over the country.

What attracts people? Affordable housing, strong schools and a safe and family friendly community to raise a family are the prime motivators. Each of these can be impacted by sound investment by the Legislature.

Do you agree with Gov. Burgum’s recent announcement that North Dakota should replace the state income tax with a flat tax? Why? And if not, do you have an alternative idea or solution?

The reduction of personal income taxes is appealing to North Dakotans since everyone pays income tax. However, I believe this proposal will have a smaller impact on our community than the property tax proposal mentioned earlier. As it sits, income taxes are roughly 2% on the first $100,000 earned, which means, on average this policy will create savings of around $83/month for the median family in Grand Forks. Given that we have not fully studied the property tax relief, it is way too early to declare a winner between the two proposals and that is why we have the legislative process. We need to research and weigh our options in order to determine the best option for our citizens.

What should be the Legislature’s main goal in the coming session or two?

I believe the main goal in the next legislative session is to garner economic relief for the citizens of North Dakota. I believe we can accomplish this through policies that ensure our state’s ability to harness the natural resources we have in the energy sector. It is our vibrant energy sector that provides us the revenues we need to provide tax relief, fund our schools, and fund infrastructure projects. It is also that energy production that allows us to keep our agricultural industry productive and efficient, which in turn, keeps consumer prices down. Sound and reasonable regulation, coupled with fiscal prudence and efficiency should be our goal.

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