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Tax hikes took a toll on Heintzeman

Josh Heintzeman said 2012 was a good year for his business - Up Country Log - but profits plunged in 2013 after the DFL-led Legislature passed $2.4 billion in tax increases. In 2013 it was hard to make ends meet and Heintzeman said he had to borr...

Josh Heintzeman, candidate for House District 10A, talks about his campaign. (Steve Kohls, Brainerd Dispatch)
Josh Heintzeman, candidate for House District 10A, talks about his campaign. (Steve Kohls, Brainerd Dispatch)

Josh Heintzeman said 2012 was a good year for his business - Up Country Log - but profits plunged in 2013 after the DFL-led Legislature passed $2.4 billion in tax increases. In 2013 it was hard to make ends meet and Heintzeman said he had to borrow money to make his mortgage payments for a couple of months.

"I had a really hard year. Those taxes ... My business was really hurt. Customers weren't buying goods and services from me."

Up Country Log, a partnership between Heintzeman and his father, specializes in log accent work such as signs, columns and trusses in a region he described as "cabin central."

The former Crow Wing County Republican Party chair announced his bid for the House District 10A seat in late May, criticizing Ward and the DFL one-party rule for sending the state on a "reckless tax-and-spend path." He's challenging a four-term legislator - Rep. John Ward, DFL-Baxter.

A Nisswa resident, Heintzeman compared the Legislature to workers who didn't use all the tools that were available to them when it came to solving Minnesota's problems. He questioned the reason for rules preventing Minnesotans from purchasing health care insurance from across state lines. He also wants to see an end to the state's moratorium on nuclear plants in order to bolster the state's energy needs.

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"All the metric wrenches are locked away," he said of the current Legislature's philosophy when it came to considering options for problems.

Affordability and accessibility are his top concerns with MNsure, the state's health care exchange. The website's difficulties were also discouraging.

"I'm seeing problem after problem," he said.

The political newcomer said he'd like to divert the sales tax from tires to the state's transportation fund as opposed to raising the gas tax.

He criticized the inequity that sets Brainerd area per-student funding at $10,000 while some Twin Cities districts receive $13,000.

How does a first-time candidate match the name recognition of a veteran legislator seeking his fifth term?

"You knock almost 1,000 doors a week," he said. "And that started back in early August."

He said he's learned a lot talking with constituents of House District 10A, which includes Brainerd, Baxter and much of western Crow Wing County.

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"I think people feel like their values haven't necessarily been represented in St. Paul," Heintzeman said.

Asked which values in particular were not being represented, the Republican-endorsed candidate said he preferred to not elaborate on his answer.

"Voters ... elect people who are going to represent their values and concerns in St. Paul. Fresh blood is probably the solution."

He noted that while the Legislature froze MnSCU college tuition, it froze the tuition at about twice the level that tuition was at 10 years ago. He said school administrators should look at ways to make education more efficient.

Heintzeman said the consideration of alternate routes for Enbridge Inc.'s Sandpiper oil pipeline could potentially kill the project. A new pipeline, he said would free up rail cars that could carry agricultural products. He also noted the increased safety a pipeline offers compared to using railroad cars to transport oil.

Minnesota, Heintzeman said, has the third highest corporate tax rate in the nation. He noted former Brainerd area manufacturers such as Potlatch and Trus Joist MacMillan are no longer operating in the area.

"Everybody knows somebody who's moved to North Dakota or who works in North Dakota," he said.

The Legislature needs to find a way to work with businesses and help them be competitive, according to Heintzeman. He said he would "absolutely" consider lowering the state's corporate tax as an economic development tool.

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"I have a small business approach to St. Paul politics," he said.

The independent expenditures from outside organizations have filled the broadcast airwaves and mail boxes of House District 10A residents with political ads on the 10A race, many of them negative. Heintzeman said the most frustrating ones have portrayed him as someone who would slash education funding.

He said he would like to see school boards have more local control and have fewer unfunded mandates from the state. The recent anti-bullying bill, was cited as one of the unfunded mandates recently handed down to school districts by the Legislature. That's a bill he would have voted against, Heintzeman said, noting the Legislature should spend more time listening to the concerns of school boards.

The Republican candidate said he would have voted no on the minimum wage increase that was passed last session. He might have considered supporting it if the measure had taken into account that 75 percent of the House District 10A are service-based.

"It's created a frustrating situation," for businesses that have wait staff.

Heintzeman would have liked to have seen the bill exclude those positions where the wage is primarily tips. He said lawmakers should have listened more to local businesses.

He said Minnesota needs to create a "friendlier economic climate."

Heintzeman said a friend who had driven through Williston, N.D., noticed the starting wage at a Wal-Mart in that city was $17.

"Oil has, obviously, had a large impact on that," he said.

Although younger than the incumbent he's trying to unseat, Heintzeman, 36, said he's had plenty of life experiences. Those experiences include being married for 15 years and being a dad to five children; serving as a manager of the Thirty Lakes Watershed District; and chair of the now defunct Crow Wing County Human Rights Commission.

If elected, Heintzeman said he would represent working people, noting there weren't a lot of legislators who were dirty at the end of their work day. That type of profession, Heintzeman said, hasn't been very well represented.

"There's not a lot of contractors or subcontractors working in the Legislature," he said.

MIKE O'ROURKE may be reached at 855-5860 or mike.orourke@brainerddispatch.com . Follow on Twitter at www.twitter.com/MikeORourkenews .

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