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Meet the Candidates: District 22 - Senate

Gary A. Lee (R) (Incumbent) Age: 65 Community of Residence: Casselton Education: BA NDSU Occupation: Director Sanford Health Fargo Family: Family members: Wife Joan, two grown children and four grandchildren1 / 3
District 22 in West Fargo2 / 3
Jessica Arneson (D) Age: 35 Community of Residence: Casselton Education: BS, Social Work from MSUM Occupation: Agency Relations Manager, Great Plains Food Bank Family: Husband of 16 years, Jered, daughter Riley, 14 years.3 / 3

Why are you running for election/re-election?

Arneson: I am running for District 22's Senate seat because I want to make sure that our quality of living continues to be strong. I am very concerned by the current influence on policy of out-of-state corporate groups, the lack of foresight and planning, and the reactive nature of our state leadership.

Lee: To help ensure N.D. continues to be a place of opportunity and optimism; a state with good jobs, high quality education, and strong, safe communities in which to live, work and raise families.

What sets you apart from the other legislative candidates?

Arneson: As a working class, professional woman with a school-aged child and a background as a community volunteer and caring for elderly and disabled people, I represent a demographic that is very underrepresented in our state legislature.

Lee: Leadership positions that require consensus building, negotiating, competing for limited dollars, setting a direction and meeting a budget have been an ongoing part of my work history. As the Senator from District 22 since 2001, I have Legislative experience, am Chairman of the Transportation Committee and a member of Legislative Management. I'm a small business partner. My background includes a broad range of community service including city council, school board, as a township officer and Director for Cass Rural Water. I am a proud military veteran having served in Vietnam.

Name two legislative topics that you plan on addressing and hopefully impacting in the upcoming session.

Arneson: 1) Lowering property taxes by sending surplus money back to communities through grants for development projects that revitalize our rural areas, support growth, or meet community-identified needs: expanding community-based services; remodeling/building schools and community buildings; updating infrastructure; enhancing parks.

2) Ensuring that social infrastructure catches up to the increased needs in the communities that have seen their quality of life diminish due to the uncontrolled growth in the western half of our state (i.e. increased police and EMS, increased services for seniors and vulnerable populations, addressing displacement and homelessness of people on limited incomes, and less-than-living wages of teachers and those in human services).

Lee: The building and maintaining of needed statewide infrastructure and continuing a tax policy that will lower income and property taxes.

How and for what do you feel the state surplus can best be utilized?

Arneson: First and foremost, I am a strong believer in planning and preparedness. Like any family or business, we should definitely have funds untouched in savings. However, our leaders need to establish what that reasonable amount should be and then have a duty to relinquish any and all tax monies above and beyond that amount back to North Dakotans; both individually via tax cuts, and collectively. I believe that the state surplus is best utilized by investing in opportunities for communities of all sizes to thrive and flourish. By making surplus state money available to communities for development and revitalization projects, property taxes can be substantially lowered, allowing more money to flow into local economies, and as a whole, we all benefit from strong communities throughout our state. I also feel that this is an opportune time to finally reverse the shameful situation that we continuously find ourselves in; a state that ranks very high for our quality of education, yet amongst the lowest in teacher pay. Our teachers should not be within the realm of the states in the bottom half for pay, let alone the bottom two! I also believe that interest rates on student loans through the State Bank of North Dakota, for North Dakotan residents, should not be higher than the federal interest rate.

Lee: Maintaining and rebuilding of the state's roads, source water development, water retention and protection projects. Ensure we fulfill our responsibility of taking care of those who are unable to care for themselves.

What kind of regulatory laws do you think should be enacted for both liquor establishments and drivers to help prevent impaired driving tragedies like the one that took the lives of a West Fargo family earlier this year?

Arneson: It is very clear that something must be done to prevent terrible tragedies due to an individual's reckless alcohol abuse. It is crucial that our law makers know their expertise and know when to seek the guidance of experts, as is the case in this circumstance. Expert consult and extensive research exploring how other states have approached this problem will best lead us to identify public policy that has, and has not, been affective at deterring repeat offenders, thus keeping everyone safe.

Lee: Penalties and sanctions for law violations of liquor sales and driving while intoxicated should be both punitive and a deterrent for repeat violations. Stronger penalties and behavior modification requirements for first time offenses should be considered.