WALKER — Two more candidates for District 9 state legislative seats introduced themselves to Cass County commissioners Tuesday.
This district covers the southern third of Cass County below Pine River and portions of Todd and Wadena Counties. Due to redistricting, there are no incumbents in the district.
Don Niles, a Wadena city councilman, is the DFL-endorsed candidate for District 9A House seat. Al Doty, a Royalton city councilman and former state representative, is the DFL candidate for District 9 Senate seat.
Their Republican opponents, Senate candidate Sen. Paul Gazelka and House candidate Mark Anderson, met the Cass board last month.
Niles said he hopes to accomplish three things if elected: to provide adequate funding for education; to restore balance to tax burdens as between income, property and sales taxes; and to work with people of differing viewpoints to make progress.
While serving on the Wadena City Council, Niles has chaired the committee spearheading recovery from the city’s 2010 tornado devastation. He serves on the Kitchigami Library Board and a school advisory committee.
“Eighty to 90 percent of the work of the Legislature is helping constituents and solving problems, and the rest involves ideology. I hope to bring to the Legislature a strong voice for focusing on solving problems and getting things done,” Nile said.
He graduated from Macalester College with a degree in economics and earned a law degree from William Mitchell College of Law in 1984. He is an attorney by profession.
Niles and his wife, Loni (a media specialist for Wadena-Deer Creek Schools), have one son in the Wadena school system and a second son who is starting Bemidji State University this fall.
He also has three adult daughters by a previous marriage and one granddaughter.
Niles sees himself as a fiscal conservative and social liberal.
Doty said he seeks to return to the Legislature this year, moving from the House to the Senate, because he sees a need for improved cooperation in St. Paul. He said he has experience building consensus.
In the House, he served on agriculture, veterans and environmental committees.
He objected to reports that the state currently has a surplus. Instead, he believes the state has a $4 billion shortfall if consideration is given to the sum the Legislature borrowed from the tobacco settlement and will repay over 30 years and the fact the Legislature is still holding back funds due to school districts.
Taxation unfairly affects rural Minnesota, he said, calling for reduced property taxes.
He thinks it will be a while after the economy recovers before the state sees the improved results flow into income tax and real estate tax receipts, because those taxes are paid after a person records their income or better real estate value.
Doty is a former Pierz High School teacher who grew up on a grain and beef cattle farm.
Commissioner Bob Kangas said it is his view that since the Legislature went from a nonpartisan body to one where legislators are elected by party endorsement that the Legislature has been “spend, spend, spend.”
He would like to see the state hold down spending as the county has. Cass plans to levy the same dollar amount for the fifth straight year in 2013, he noted.
Doty said when legislators get to St. Paul, the conflict is not between political parties, but between the majority metropolitan legislators and the rural representatives. He said it is rural legislators’ responsibility to help city legislators see the impact of what they vote on.
It is his view that regular funding for programs is drying up and that future funding is planned to funnel through grants.
Commissioner Jim Dowson questioned why the Legislature seems to have ignored the work Association of Minnesota Counties put into developing the MAGIC Act, which would have allowed local governments to try pilot programs to more efficiently use state money and meet state mandates where local dollars are required.
Doty said he agreed that state officials should look at what local governments think will work better. Last year’s Legislature did not do a good job of listening to local views, he said.
When Dowson asked how the Legislature could explain approving the Viking stadium funding when there are ladies on Social Security in Cass County who cannot afford to buy all the medications their doctors prescribe, Doty said he was lucky not to be in the Legislature when either the Vikings or the Twins stadium bills were approved.
There is a need to take real people’s stories to legislative committees, Doty said.