We expect a lot for the taxes we pay, and we should expect a lot. Education is one of the best investments we can make as a community. I will work with students, parents, and educators to advocate for the funding students need to succeed at school.
Making sure our state dollars and property taxes are well spent will be my top priority as State Auditor. We must protect school districts from predatory contractors that are trying to get their hands on our tax dollars.
In one recent example, a "facilities management" firm gave a local school board a whole song and dance about helping them plan for and pass a bond levy and then building the project for them – a one-stop shop. But it was too good to be true. On a $35-million project, they admitted to taking over $5 million in fees! That's unacceptable.
I'll make sure every school district in the state knows how to write a fair contract that protects taxpayers' interests.
Our cities and towns throughout Minnesota are struggling to provide all the services their residents expect, especially given inadequate funding from the State in local government assistance. Property tax bases are eroding, and residents are left with increasing property taxes.
Both of my parents grew up in Brainerd, Minnesota. My great-grandpa was an electrical worker in the mines in Crosby. Later, my grandpa owned a tire shop on Washington Street in downtown Brainerd called Viking Tire. In those days, you could support your family with a small shop and live a good life.
Two years ago, Brainerd was listed as the poorest city in Minnesota due to high rates of poverty and low average wages. It's not all bleak, as some of the surrounding communities are doing pretty well and locally-owned breweries are moving into old industrial sites.
But we know this is the story throughout Minnesota. Most of the good jobs have moved to the Twin Cities, and most of the profits are staying in the pockets of a very few. That means too few are left to pay the property taxes for over-burdened cities that are trying to maintain the roads and bridges and services their residents expect.
As State Auditor, I will work with cities and towns to make sure they have the funding and support they need to meet their residents' expectations in a fiscally-responsible way. Whether it's maintaining roads and bridges and sewer lines to prevent more costly repairs in the future or testifying in front of the legislature alongside mayors, we'll work to get the job done.
As State Auditor, I will partner with Minnesota counties to ensure they can provide the services their residents expect.
Like towns, counties have an immense amount of responsibility to manage. Healthcare, for example, is a major function of counties. When that important role is neglected by the state and federal governments, we pay more in the long run. County health services save us money by investing in prevention, such as mental health services, chemical health treatment, and meeting basic needs such as housing and child and maternal nutrition.
When it comes to auditing of counties, some have found the Office of State Auditor to be too expensive. Privatizing a government function like compliance audits is fiscally irresponsible. But I believe that because the State requires the audits, the State should be paid for them. Making counties pay for it is one of many unfunded mandates imposed on counties by the State Government. I will advocate for funding the office entirely through state dollars.