BEMIDJI -- Former Minnesota Rep. Bill Kuisle visited Bemidji Thursday while campaigning for Jeff Johnson, the GOP-endorsed candidate for governor.
A Rochester farmer, Kuisle served in the state House of Representatives from 1996 to 2004.
Minnesota's unemployment rate was down to 4.7 percent in April, but in Kuisle's opinion there's still much to do in improving the situation facing recent college graduates and others looking for work. Although more people may be employed, Kuisle said, they may not be in the pay bracket or the career field they went to school for.
"The jobs are not paying what they were before," Kuisle said. "People are taking jobs, but are they the paying jobs they want?"
When asked how Minnesota's tax structure could be changed to encourage business in Minnesota, Kuisle said the current income tax is unfavorable to higher-income people, which curtails investment.
"It has to do with that upper-income bracket," he said. "I'm not saying slash the upper income bracket or anything like that, but you can't consistently raise the income taxes on the upper-income and expect them to stay in Minnesota."
Kuisle mentioned declining tax revenue as a sign the state economy still has problems. However, the the best way to increase that revenue was through increasing economic activity rather than taxes, he said. He said there are no areas in Minnesota's economy where a new tax would be viable or justified. Although Kuisle said he couldn't speak for Johnson, the candidate for governor would likely agree, he said.
He called a potential mileage tax "horrible for greater Minnesota."
"Thousands of people are driving in Bemidji every day," he said. "That's... a huge disincentive for them to drive."
A June 21 article from The Journal of New Ulm said Kuisle suggested a lower ratio for replacing wetlands affected by highway construction, in order to decrease the costs of building new roads. As it stands now, the ratio is 2:1 in terms of new wetlands required to be put in by the state per acre of wetlands affected, but Kuisle told The Journal the ratio could be closer to 1.2 to 1 instead.
"That was one example I used... that we could possibly reduce it," Kuisle said Thursday. "If you destroy a wetland, you should replace it. But if we can do it in a way that doesn't cost us more, it should be to everybody's benefit."
Kuisle said social issues likely wouldn't play a large role in this year's election.
"I think we've got enough to run on without getting into the social issues," he said. "Will we be bashed for certain positions that we take? Of course. But then again, we're taking positions, people want to know our positions, we're not going to shy away from them."
He did point out Johnson's support of the recent legalization of medical marijuana in Minnesota, a unique stance in the Republican field of candidates.
"He would have signed the bill that passed this year," Kuisle said of Johnson. "I'm probably more cautious on that issue, but Jeff's the governor candidate."