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Seifert announces GOP bid for governor

Former House Minority Leader Marty Seifert, R-Marshall, brought his 2010 gubernatorial campaign to Bemidji on Wednesday night, where he spoke to about 25 Republicans at the Hampton Inn & Suites. He is on a 14-city tour to announce his GOP bid for governor. Pioneer Photo/Brad Swenson

Standing on his 14-year legislative record of limited government and welfare reform, Marty Seifert already has a laundry list of what he'd do as governor.

Seifert, R-Marshall, wants to keep and create jobs by cutting state government bureaucracy in permits and licenses, and wants to reform welfare so that 10,000 to 20,000 people don't come to Minnesota each year because the state has higher welfare benefits.

"I'll be the gentle bully of the bully pulpit to get those facts and figures out to the people," he told about 25 Republicans during a rally Wednesday night at the Hampton Inn & Suites. "If I'm the Republican nominee, I'm going to speak very frankly about a lot of these things -- the jobs we're losing and why, the things that are causing it and why, the welfare statistics."

Seifert, in the middle of a 14-city statewide tour to announce his 2010 bid for governor, ended in Bemidji on Wednesday after stops in St. Cloud, Alexandria, Moorhead and East Grand Forks. He's making the swing with his wife, Traci, and two children, in a motor home driven by former Rep. Jim Knoblach, R-St. Cloud, Seifert's campaign manager.

Seifert, 37, stepped down earlier this summer as House minority leader to run for governor, a post that if elected, he'd be the first rural Minnesota governor since 1986.

"Minnesota is bigger than just the beltway," he said. "We deserve a governor who will unite the state; we're not pitting rural against metro. I like to think I bring something called common sense to the State Capitol."

He wants to focus his campaign on economic development and jobs.

"Jobs mean that we get a better life," said Seifert, a former teacher and college admissions counselor. "It means better families, it means fewer deficits, better health care, more freedom, more economic growth and a better Minnesota."

Minnesota is at a competitive disadvantage not only with South Dakota but also with South Korea, he said, adding that Minnesota is in the top three in corporate tax rates in the world.

"We have a tax and regulatory climate in this state that hinder job growth," Seifert said. It takes 12 to 16 months longer in Minnesota to build a manufacturing plant in securing permits and licensing than in neighboring states. "I will work to slash permitting and licensing processes so we are not the worse state in the Upper Midwest to get permits and licenses, but the best state."

He also believes jobs and environmental protection can work side by side, citing his efforts to help copper-nickel mining efforts on the Iron Range.

"You don't have to come through and ruin pristine environments to (create jobs)," Seifert said. "I'm going to be a big promoter for use of our resources to create jobs -- not an abuse, but use."

Just holding the line on taxes isn't enough, Seifert said.

"Taxes are too high," he said. "It's not just the rhetoric about no new taxes. We need a structural change in our tax policy to reward job providers rather than punish them."

He doesn't believe the Taxpayers League of Minnesota will have a "no new taxes" pledge for candidates to sign.

"I would like to think that people would take me on my word," Seifert said. "I've not voted for tax increases as a legislator. Between the combinations of efficiency, restructuring, reducing spending, reducing cabinet departments, reforming and reigning in entitlement programs, and growing private sector jobs -- This is the worst time to raise taxes on people."

He explained at length proposals in each area, such as eliminating some cabinet-level departments, which he says Minnesota has more of than the federal government.

Seifert as a legislator has pushed many welfare reform positions and would continue to do so as governor. He would renew efforts to control the use of debit cards given to welfare recipients, after it was found that millions is spent from the cards in other states.

He would require use of the cards only in Minnesota, and the recipient would need to show a photo ID to cash the card. And, he said, the cards would be barred from use in buying alcohol, cigarettes and lottery tickets.

To stem the inflow of welfare recipients from other states, he'd redo Minnesota's benefits to no higher than the state they are coming from.

"As a gubernatorial candidate, I'm going to be very articulate about the fact that we will take care of folks who are elderly, who are disabled, who need some help, temporarily laid off from their jobs," Seifert said, "because we do care and we are Minnesotans. But for folks coming from everywhere else to take advantage of our generosity, we're going to stop that."

Seifert said he wants to "utilize the private sector for the delivery of government services where it makes sense through guaranteed contracting for accountability." For example, there is no longer a state print shop, and state printing is put out for bids among private sector printers, a bill he pushed.

In education, Seifert would reduce state mandates to allow for more local control, and would seek more time for students in the classroom. "There's more things to learn, and less time to learn it. ... Our administration is going to focus on academic instruction, not fluffy social policy."

Seifert said he use the veto, but not as wantonly as Gov. Tim Pawlenty.

"I will veto or line-item veto bills that contain waste and pork projects that do not serve regional or statewide significance," he said. "All new programs created in state government under my administration must contain a sunset clause to make sure that they are meeting performance measures and expectations for improvement. Legislative audit reports will have all recommendations implemented by the Legislature, or I will do it by executive order if they don't."

Seifert is the first high-level Republican candidate to tour the state since Pawlenty announced he wouldn't seek a third term. Others in the GOP race include Sens. David Hann of Eden Prairie and Mike Jungbauer of East Bethel, as well as Rep. Tom Emmer of Delano, plus former Rep. Bill Haas of Champlin and Rep. Paul Kohls of Victoria.

Big hitters still on the sidelines are former U.S. Rep. Jim Ramstad and former U.S. Sen. Norm Coleman.

On the Democrat side, there is a similar arm's long list of potential or announced candidates.

Seiftert's local campaign chairman is John Carlson, the House 4A GOP candidate last fall.