Guest column: Dedicated to being the area’s public servant

Published 8:45 pm Tuesday, November 1, 2022

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Guest column by Gene Dornink

Growing up on a dairy farm in southern Minnesota, I learned the importance of hard work and responsibility. As I started my career as a union carpenter, those same values applied. What I had learned on the farm continued on the job site. I worked together with many different trades. We had to be able to communicate, respect each other and let each other do the work we were trained to do. We completed a lot of projects working as a team.

Gene Dornink

I spent most of my career as a union carpenter, until I was laid off in 2009. We then started a family business, which my children and I still operate today. I was first elected to the Minnesota state Senate in 2020. From the first day when I was sworn in, to the end of my second legislative session, my goal has been to serve our communities.

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I wanted to be a strong voice for our district, so when I got to St. Paul I began to reach out to those who had been there for many years on both sides of the aisle. Building relationships is a strength and the only way to get things done. One of the most notable is the relationship I’ve built with Senator Bakk. He’s been a lifelong Democrat, and he was in the Carpenter’s Union like I was. I will never forget the advice he gave me: Don’t make any agreements or promises that you can’t keep — your word is your currency here, always keep it. It was not hard to follow his advice since that’s the way I was raised. In the first two years, I followed his advice and developed close relationships as a result.

In my first year, we had to agree on a budget. At that time, we were the only partisan split Legislature in the country. It was challenging, especially in light of COVID, but we came together and got things done. We passed a two-year budget that provided middle-class tax relief, record public school funding and public safety resources. My Republican colleagues and I were able to end the governor’s emergency powers, block gas and income tax increases, stop nearly 80 new education mandates and deliver for our communities.

Now, I’m looking ahead. I’ve had extensive conversations with members and leaders of our community, and my priorities are clear: ensuring safe communities and supporting law enforcement, helping people afford their lives and empowering parents as education partners.

In order to ensure safe communities, we need law enforcement. Sadly, the political leadership in parts of our state has led to massive reductions in police personnel. To address this crisis, we will work with law enforcement agencies to create incentive and retention policies to help them fill their open positions and restore the peace in our communities. Further, we will put victims first. The highest priority of any government is to ensure safety for our citizens.

The state’s $10 billion surplus will be one of the most discussed items in St. Paul. Government bank accounts are doing well, but Minnesotans are paying for it. Their bank accounts are getting squeezed thanks to stubborn and record inflation from runaway congressional spending. Minnesotans aren’t a never-ending ATM for a government spending spree — they drive our economy and they paid for the surplus. To help people afford their lives, I’m supporting lower- and middle-class tax relief, eliminating the Social Security tax. This will help Minnesotans have more money in their pocket’s month after month, year after year. 

The closure of schools due to COVID has been an eye-opening experience for parents across the state. The stress of working from home, managing their kids’ distance learning and trying to stay safe in a pandemic was exhausting for them. I will keep our education policies simple and get schools back to the basics: meeting math and reading scores. Too many kids are still behind from COVID learning loss. That needs to be our school’s top priority. I also support increasing transparency and accountability in schools while empowering parents to be active partners in their child’s education. We will empower parents as informed advocates and partner with teachers to ensure kids are meeting their educational goals.

I am your public servant. The only campaign promise I make is that I will never forget where I came from and who sent me to St. Paul. I thank you for the honor and privilege of being your senator and humbly ask for your vote this year.

Gene Dornink, R-Brownsdale, is running for the District 23 Senate seat.