Improving Minnesota's job climate was listed Friday as a top priority by the Republican-endorsed Minnesota lieutenant governor candidate, Bill Kuisle of rural Stewartville.
A full-time farmer who lives in the Rochester area, Kuisle served in the Minnesota House of Representatives from 1997-2005. He was chosen as a running mate by endorsed GOP candidate Jeff Johnson, a Hennepin County commissioner.
The ticket faces three other Republican gubernatorial candidates in the Aug. 12 primary: former Rep. Marty Seifert, businessman Scott Honour, and former Minnesota House Speaker Kurt Zellers.
He decried the new upper income tax brackets that were established by law during the last legislative session and called for a climate that was conducive to economic development. He noted Medtronic's recent decision to relocate its corporate headquarters overseas and a provider tax assessed against the Mayo Clinic.
"It's better to have a good tax policy that's fair to everyone," Kuisle said in a campaign stop Friday in Brainerd.
"There's a lot (of issues) in the business climate," Kuisle said. "It's not just the taxes, it's rules and regulations."
Education, he said, also plays a role in job climate, noting the mismatch between educational programs and the needs of the business community for technically skilled workers. While unemployment numbers are down, Kuisle said taxes have also been below projections for the past five months.
The candidate says he receives plenty of advice on education from a number of relatives who are either teachers or former educators. In addition, both his parents served on school boards.
He said he and Johnson will address the achievement gap seen between the academic performance of minorities and non-minorities.
"We're not seeing the achievement gap close," he said.
Kuisle also said a Johnson administration would opt out of MNsure and defer to the federal government's health system before the Minnesota program proves to be a further drain on the state. While, theoretically, the state might have more control with its own health system, he said, there's also a negative point.
"We're also on the hook," he said.
Kuisle was about 10 years removed from his legislative career when Johnson asked him to be his running mate.
"I adopted two kids (now ages 2 ½ and 7) thinking I'd never run again," he said.
Still, he called this campaign the opportunity of a lifetime.
He believes Johnson can present his message without scaring people or being preachy.
"I think he'll be a great governor," Kuisle said. "He has the ability to work with people. We want to get this state moving in our direction."
Kuisle was born on the family farm near Stewartville with six brothers and four sisters. He raises corn, soybeans and beef cattle. He previously served on the High Forest Township Board and as an Olmsted County commissioner. While in the Legislature Kuisle chaired the Transportation Finance Committee and was elected assistant majority leader.
Since Wednesday Kuisle's campaign schedule had him visiting Ada, Crookston, Thief River Falls, Bagley, Bemidji, Walker, Detroit Lakes, Park Rapids, Wadena and Little Falls. On Friday, he was headed back to Rochester to take part in Rochesterfest.