Zachary Raknerud: A Better Perspective for Minot

Last spring, it was clear that the legislative race in Minot’s district five was set to go unopposed. Incumbent Louser and candidate Fisher were guaranteed to secure both seats in the district. This didn’t feel right, so I joined the race to bring a very different set of policy positions. I am not satisfied with the direction of our state government. Having lived in North Dakota my whole life, I care deeply about this state. The legislature has a great opportunity to make more investments in our people.

Higher education costs are continuing to climb while we simultaneously face a growing workforce shortage. I will advocate for tuition-free trade school or two years of community college. This kind of investment will allow North Dakotans to pursue an education without tens of thousands of dollars in debt. The six billion dollar and growing Legacy Fund gives us a great chance to try such an investment.

As the workforce shortage grows in many key trades, I also believe it is time to bring a public trade school to Minot. Too often, our young people are told that four-year college is their best chance at a good life. While it is a great route for many, we need to ensure that our young people understand the invaluable contribution of learning a trade. By and large, there is no public trade school to serve the west side of the state. NDSCS in Wahpeton is a great resource for North Dakota. A second trade school out west would become another great resource. We could even explore replacing Trinity Hospital in their buildings downtown. Otherwise, they are set to become another burden on the city of Minot.

[mks_pullquote align=”left” width=”300″ size=”24″ bg_color=”#000000″ txt_color=”#ffffff”]I think it’s clear that Minot has been left behind by the Legislature. The allocation of Hub City funding is one example.[/mks_pullquote]

Healthcare costs are also growing at an alarming rate. The Affordable Care Act is rightfully mired in controversy, but there is also no denying that the law has been severely damaged through Congress. With the passage of the tax bill, the individual mandate was removed, which was the backbone of the ACA. So, while the law may not be repealed fully, premiums will continue to rise dramatically. Given these circumstances, I believe it is time for the legislature to explore some potential solutions.

One potential solution that I’m bringing to the table is the possibility of a publicly backed health insurance option. In the 1920s, out of state banks and other interests were controlling the fate of banking in North Dakota. So, North Dakotans banded together and formed the Bank of North Dakota. To this day, it remains the only state-run bank in the nation. Similarly, we should explore a public option in healthcare. It would run similarly to most other insurance companies, but its incentive structure would be different. This could bring down prices for North Dakotans and improve healthcare access.

I will also work to be a better representative for Minot. I think it’s clear that Minot has been left behind by the Legislature. The allocation of Hub City funding is one example. From 2009-2016, Minot received nearly one sixth of the funding of Williston despite Minot’s population growing by more. Obviously, Williston received a variety of unique challenges, but current proposals are looking to shift funds out east before addressing the shortfall Minot received. I will work to ensure this is addressed before supporting such a proposal.

Additionally, the state funding formula for the Minot school district was slashed by 75% in lieu of federal funds coming in to educate children on the Airforce base. These funds were clearly designated to supplement state dollars, not replace, yet the formula was cut anyways. This has left Minot taxpayers to foot the bill. As a result, property tax rates have climbed by nearly 20% annually. Minot area legislators have remained virtually silent on the issue. I will look to change that.

I understand that my odds of winning a seat in this race are extremely limited. My campaign has been outraised by over $80,000. Still, I believe these ideas deserve a seat at the table and I am extremely thankful for the opportunity to bring them forward. So, to the voters of district five, if these policy positions resonate with you, I am asking for your vote on November 6th. It’s safe to say that such an improbable victory would send a message to our state government.

Rob Port is the editor of SayAnythingBlog.com, a columnist for the Forum News Service, and host of the Plain Talk Podcast which you can subscribe to by clicking here.

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