Northfield's Kevin Dahle returns to the Minnesota State Capitol today as District 20's senator after winning a close election and recount in the fall.
Dahle, a DFLer, previously won a special election in 2008 to represent the area but lost in 2010 to Al DeKruif when Republicans ousted DFLers across the state.
In 2012, Dahle, who's a social studies teacher at Northfield High School, will serve as the vice chair for the Education committee and will also serve on the Commerce committee, Finance—E-12 Division committee and the State and Local Government committee.
Northfield Patch recently caught up with Dahle to ask him about returning to the Minnesota Legislature and what lies ahead on the political landscape.
After a hard-fought campaign, a recount and a few months of waiting, how does it feel to be hours away from being sworn in as a senator again?
I am looking forward to it. I am excited to bring my family to the Capitol to share in this moment. It certainly was a long hard fought campaign. I will be reflecting on many aspects of that journey as I take the oath of office, with an eye of course, to the next 4 years.
How does this win and build up compare to 2008?
Nothing can match the excitement of winning that special election in 2008. No one expected us to win that race. There were so many people from all over Minnesota who helped me in that 30 day campaign. That victory at the time gave the MN Senate an override proof majority. People still talk to me about that election today. This victory is special, however, having lost an election 2 years ago. A lot of people helped me win this seat. I am pleased to represent them in St. Paul.
What are the biggest issues facing the Senate and Minnesota this session and beyond?
The budget is by far the biggest issue we will face this upcoming session. Minnesota's latest economic forecast projects a $1.1 billion deficit for the next two-year budget cycle. The two biggest pieces of that budget are health and human services and education. We need to move ahead with plans for a new health insurance exchange, which is required as part of the Affordable Care Act. And we need to find to look at a more equitable and sustainable funding stream for our schools. Tax reform, a system less reliant on property taxes, would be a step in the right direction to address several of these issues.
Is there added pressure or is there relief that the DFL has the majority in both legislative bodies and controls the governor's mansion? Why?
There is a lot of pressure. If things go south, we don’t have anyone to blame but ourselves. We understand we have a tremendous opportunity and an even bigger responsibility to enact good public policy that is responsive to the needs of all Minnesotans, not just Democrats. The DFL has plenty of interests within its own party and the House and Senate don’t always agree. There will be challenges. Governor Dayton said “the easiest two years are behind him.” The hard work begins now….for all of us.
What does Senate District 20 need from St. Paul?
SD20 is a challenging district. We are considered the outer ring of the urban-suburban metro area bringing many of the challenges of ensuring adequate transportation, infrastructure, and smart growth. We are also reliant on agriculture. We need policies that are progressive with an eye on attracting businesses and jobs but in touch with the needs of greater Minnesota.
Of the four committees for which you've been appointed, which one or two are you looking forward to most and why?
As a teacher, I am still passionate about education and I look forward to serving on both E-12 Finance and as Vice-chair of the Education Policy committee. There are many challenges to school funding that needs our attention. I am interested in working to fully fund all day kindergarten while addressing the achievement gap in schools throughout Minnesota schools. I look forward to once again serving on Commerce and the challenge of a new committee: State and Local Government. I think this new committee will serve me and the constituents of SD20 well.
When it comes to the State and Local Government Committee, what do you think has to be done for local governments, including, of course, Northfield and the other municipalities you represent?
Our local governments are still hoping to see mandate reduction and would like to see adequate funding to provide the services people need and expect. I believe in Local Government Aid and I want to see less reliance on property taxes for vital services. I also believe in local control as the best way to govern our townships, counties, and cities. State oversight should be about policies that promote fairness, access, and consistency. I would be open to continue to look at shared services at all levels of government if it can found to deliver efficiencies and quality services to those who need it.
Anything else you would like to add?
I look forward to working for Minnesotans throughout SD20 and of course all of Minnesota. I look forward to visiting with you in your towns, schools, places of business and of course hearing from you as we begin the 2013 session. I can be reached at:
317 State Capitol
75 Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Blvd.
St. Paul, MN 55155