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Hann ready for Republicans to take control

House Minority Leader Kurt Daudt, with Senate Minority Leader David Hann, said on Wednesday, Aug. 21, that Republicans would rather increase a loan repayment to schools than to repeal a new farm implement repair tax. (Don Davis/Forum News Service)

David W. Hann is quietly getting ready for voters to hand Republicans control of the Minnesota Senate.

Hann, 61, is minority leader of the Minnesota Senate. A Republican, he represents District 48, which includes portions of Hennepin County in the southwestern Twin Cities metropolitan area. He was first elected in 2002 and was re-elected in 2006, 2010, and 2012.

The DFL now controls both the Minnesota Senate and House, but Hann believes the Democrats overreached on taxes and will do so again next session, on issues like the minimum wage and a statewide anti-bullying policy for schools.

And he believes the Affordable Care Act is seriously flawed and could well sink under its own weight.

Hann was born and raised in Minneapolis. He attended Lincoln High School in Bloomington, then served in the Army during the Vietnam War. He attended Gustavus Adolphus College in St. Peter, earning a B.A. in religion, and took graduate studies in theology at the University of Chicago.

In a wide-ranging conversation, he seemed comfortable talking about any issue that arose. Here are some excerpts:

He supports nonferrous (copper, etc.) mining in the Iron Range. Environmentalists strongly oppose it and consider it a threat to the pristine Boundary Waters, while a lot of locals are for it because they need the work.

“I think it’s something we need to find a way to manage,” he said. “It would open up jobs and the economy in that part of the state. I understand the concerns about the resources, but we have the technologies to manage it well. It’s shortsighted not to enter into a discussion. I believe there’s a way to make it work.”

On the recent special session, in which the Legislature appropriated about $4.5 million to meet the state’s 25 percent match for federal disaster relief funds, he said there should be a better way.

In the future, he said, “we may be able to get around a special session and avoid calling it to raise such a relatively small amount of money.”

He criticized the DFL for refusing to consider repeal during the special session of three business-to-business sales taxes — on warehousing, equipment repairs and telecommunications — that he said harm the state’s business climate.

“We feel these are taxes burdensome to the economy. Even though they don’t take effect until next year, business needs to make decisions in advance,” he said.

He acknowledged that repealing the taxes would leave a $300 million hole in the budget for the biennium, and offered no suggestions on how to replace the lost revenue.

Instead, he said the DFL majority should be able to find $300 million in savings in a $38 billion budget that grew by 8 percent over the previous biennium.

“It should be a solvable problem if there is a willingness to make it a priority, and Republicans want to make that a priority,” he said.

Businesses are already being hurt by changes in the tax code at the state and federal level that affect the wealthy, and there is uncertainty over the impact on business of the Affordable Care Act that largely goes into effect next year.

“These are just starting to have an effect — how much they’ll drag on growth and the economy, we’ll have to wait and see,” he said.

With the Democrats in charge of the Legislature and the governor’s office, “Minnesota has become an island of very high taxation in the Midwest,” Hann said. “That hurts us, we want to have people come to Minnesota.”

On Obamacare, he said the success of the new national health insurance program depends on young, healthy people signing up for health insurance.

But young people may very well opt to pay the penalty, which is cheaper than insurance, and buy insurance when they need it, since no one can be turned down for preexisting conditions, he said.

Without large numbers of healthy people buying health insurance, Obamacare will sink under its own weight, a fiasco that the Democrats will be responsible for, since they pushed it through on a partisan vote, he said.

Republicans, he said, have no responsibility to help the Democrats fix the program, as former President Bill Clinton has advocated.

“A lot of people were raising these concerns during the debate — they were ignored,” Hann said. “Tactics that were used at the national and state level — ‘we Democrats know how to do this, you Republicans can just go take a hike.’ So they kind of own it.”

“Obama and the democrats should have tried harder to do this in a bipartisan fashion,” he said. “Government can’t write laws to ignore economic realities — you do so at great peril.”

On next year’s session, he said, “We have an agreement with the Democrats to keep bonding under $1 billion. We agreed at the close of the last session.” He expects a bonding bill of $700 million to $800 million, and would like it to focus on statewide and regional projects, not strictly local ones. “That’s what the constitution calls for,” he said. “Both sides are guilty of it.”

Republicans are gearing up to oppose a higher state minimum wage, and to oppose a proposed anti-bullying bill that he said would cost $50 million for school districts to implement because of stringent training requirements.

“We’re trying to work with Democrats on a less-intrusive bill,” he said.

Hann is a business process consultant involved in the insurance industry.

He is a former member of the Eden Prairie School Board, where he also served as clerk and treasurer, and a member of the board of directors of the Hiawatha Leadership Academy, as well as president of Parents for Accountable Schools.

Hann served as an assistant majority leader from January through December 2011. His special legislative concerns include education, education reform, taxes, tax relief, business, improved business climate, family law, and agriculture.

And no, he has says he is not running for governor next year, though he ran for governor in the 2010 elections, pulling out after about six months when support didn’t materialize.