NEW ULM - It's a crowded field in the Republican governor's race. Four candidates are seeking the Republican candidacy in the August primary.
The Republicans endorsed Hennepin County Commissioner Jeff Johnson and his running mate, former Rocester area state Rep. Bill Kuisle. On Friday, Kuisle stopped in New Ulm carrying the Johnson message.
Republicans are trying to differentiate themselves from each other during the primary campaign, knowing that Gov. Mark Dayton is the primary target.
"You don't want to draw blood," Kuisle said, "you don't want to give Dayton and his group fodder for the election."
Kuisle talked about the need to create jobs in Minnesota, especially by reversing the Dayton budget plans that have raised taxes by $2 billion over the last biennium.
"You're putting up a big 'Keep Out' sign at the state border instead of 'Welcome to Minnesota,'" said Kuisle.
On Thursday the Johnson campaign lamented the decison by Advance Auto Parts to move its corporate headquarters to North Carolina, blaming the move on the state's high income tax rate.
Asked about transportation's role in creating jobs, especially the completion of the Highway 14 expansion project all the way to New Ulm, Kuisle, who served on the transportation committee during his 1996-2004 tenure in the House, said he remembers New Ulm city leaders coming to his office year after year to push for the Highway 14 project. They are still lobbying the Legislature for the funds to complete it.
Kuisle said the the state has been throwing "a lot of money" at transportation through the gax tax increase and license fee hikes, but hasn't been seeing much for that. He said that before the state starts increasing taxes for transportation, it needs to look at the regulations and restrictions the state has on transportation projects that add to the cost of construction. Requiring extensive environmental impact studies, archaeological studies and extensive wetlands replacement eats up money that could be spent on cement and asphalt, Kuisle said.
He pointed out that when he was in the Legislature, studies indicated that wetlands replacement (replacing acres of wetlands that were affected by road construction) could be done on a 1.2-to-1 ratio, instead of the 2-to-1 ratio required by law. But environmentalists insisted on the 2-to-1 ratio.
Kuisle said that the Minnesota Department of Transportation's priorities are often derailed by high profile projects, such as replacing intersections with overpasses in response to accidents and fatalities that may not have been a result of faulty intersection design. The push for light rail also siphons off money that could be used for road projects.
Kuisle also said that the well-publicized forecasts showing state road repair and replacement costs running three times as high as the state's anticipated revenue for road projects are the result of "unvetted" figures prepared by highway construction firms.
Kuisle said Highway 14 needs to get done, but the state needs to examine the cost of regulations before looking for more transportation money.