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Swails looking for two more years as District 56B representative

Marsha Swails, the incumbent state representative for District 56B, is seeking re-election. She is the DFL candidate for the seat.

Marsha Swails has done quite a bit of door knocking over the last several months. So the Woodbury high School English teacher was bound to meet a few of her past and current students on their doorsteps.

"They answer the door, and they're like 'Swailsy?! What are you doing here?'" Swails recalled. "And I tell them 'I'm here to make sure you're doing your homework.'"

The DFL incumbent for the 56B seat in the House was first elected in 2006 when she narrowly defeated another teacher, Karen Klinzing, and just two short years later, Swails said she's having the time of her life representing the her constituents from Woodbury and Landfall.

"It's a very humbling experience for me," said Swails, who has lived in Woodbury with her husband Tom since 1988. "Every time I drive in on I-94 and the sun catches the gleam of those golden horses against the white marble I just kind of take a deep breath and go 'Wow! What an opportunity.'"

Because she has one of the shorter commutes in the state House, with Woodbury just a 10-15 minute drive from the state Capitol, Swails has been able to continue with teaching her advanced placement English class at Woodbury High School.

"I can't teach during the (legislative) session, so I'm able to get a long-term sub," she said. "I love serving in the Legislature, but I'm fortunate I'm still able to teach."

I love of her career is what Swails said first peaked her interest in state politics.

Swails recalls in 2003 when her class sizes increased from just under 30 students to nearly 40 students.

"It was after a round of pretty draconian cuts at the Legislature, and it was so frustrating," she said.

A few years later, several community members urged Swails to run for the 56B House seat.

"I had never even considered before, but I felt the time was right," Swails said. "This is my home, my community and being able to serve it is a real honor.

Q&A with Marsha Swails

From your campaigning so far, what is the issue citizen's are most concerned about in this election? What action will you take on this issue if elected?

Clearly, the issue on everyone's mind this election is our troubled economy. Energy and food costs are rising, job losses are going up and home values are falling, creating a sense of anxiety that many of us haven't known before. If given the privilege of returning to the Legislature, I'll continue to focus on ways to stimulate economic growth. Specifically, I'll work on the things necessary to renew our economic security and prosperity - good schools that produce a highly skilled workforce, a sound and effective system of transportation and public infrastructure, and energy policies that will reduce our dependence on foreign oil and create new jobs.

What actions should the state take to help Woodbury residents and businesses deal with the consequences of the financial instability on Wall Street?

The best thing state government can do to mitigate the fallout of the national economic crisis is to spur economic development and jump start the job market. We can do this with a strategic approach to public works projects that create new jobs and strengthen our infrastructure, and by working to reduce property taxes and create a more equitable revenue stream that doesn't rely so heavily on property taxes.

The state already spends $7 billion on K-12 education, which accounts for 40 percent of its total general fund budget. In relation to that figure where do you stand on the 'New Minnesota Miracle' bill proposed by DFL leaders, which would increase state funding for education by $2.5 billion?

Clearly, our education funding formula needs to be revamped so it is simpler, more equitable provides greater accountability, and reduces property taxes. We all know that persistent state funding shortfalls and actual budget cuts in 2003 have forced school districts across the state to ask voters to increase their property taxes to pay for classroom basics -- a trend both unfair and unsustainable.

The proposed "New Minnesota Miracle" is one approach that certainly merits serious consideration. Most people tend to focus on the overall price tag of the plan, but they fail to acknowledge that it is designed to be phased in over the course of several years. Just as covering all kids with health care won't happen overnight, neither will this plan. However, most would agree our education funding system is broken and needs repair; I look forward to the debate next session on the "New Minnesota Miracle."

How important do you think it is for the east metro and Woodbury specifically to be included in transit improvement talk? Do you think the state transportation bill approved by the legislature during its last session will have any tangible effect on the Woodbury community? Was it worth it?

The bi-partisan transportation bill we enacted this year was definitely worth it. Woodbury residents are already seeing the positive impact of the comprehensive 10-year investment as road and bridge projects are put on an accelerated schedule. Work on the Hastings Bridge is already underway and the long-delayed Wakota Bridge finally has a completion date of 2010. In addition, property tax payers won't be forced to pay for transportation projects that the state is now able to fund. Finally, the newly enacted law has already played a role in terms of creating good paying new jobs - the one bright spot in the September jobless report showed the transportation sector is the only one which has steadily gained jobs over the course of the summer.

I believe it's important for Woodbury and the east metro to be included in transit improvement discussions. The last thing we want is to be left out of a comprehensive regional plan at a time when commuters are looking for better transportation options.

What are your thoughts on the ongoing situation involving 3M Corporation and its agreement with the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency to clean up its former dump sites located in Woodbury and surrounding communities where low levels of perfluorochemicals have been discovered? Do you believe the state legislature, MPCA and Health Department have handled the situation appropriately?

We should all feel confident that the water we drink and cook with is safe. It's important to understand any potential risks to our water supply, and to feel confident that transparent steps are being taken to remediate the damage.

I believe the additional oversight that the legislature mandated has been helpful in ensuring the transparency of MPCA and Department of Health efforts to investigate the full impact of the chemicals in a timely way. That legislative oversight will be an important part of helping to restore our confidence in our water supply. I'll continue to personally monitor the oversight progress, share finding with the public as information becomes available, and work with 3M and state agencies to make sure full remediation is achieved.

Do you support state funding for embryonic stem cell research at public institutions like the University of Minnesota?

I support state funding for important research at our public institutions which could offer hope to so many families with loved ones facing debilitating illness and disease.

Do you think the state Legislature can play a role in curbing the recent increase in home foreclosures in Woodbury and Washington County?

The legislature took some important steps to stem the fallout of the foreclosure crisis with new laws to protect homeowners from predatory lenders and fraudulent mortgage practices, new laws which require mortgage brokers to work in the interest of home buyers, stiffer penalties for brokers who engage in fraud and protections for renters who reside in homes that face foreclosure. All of those steps will help the crisis from becoming worse on our communities.

The legislature can also play a role to help homeowners facing foreclosure by encouraging lenders to restructure loan terms with homeowners in much the same way we created the Farmer Lender Mediation Program to deal with the farm crisis two decades ago. A bill which would have done just that was unfortunately vetoed this session. However it may be necessary to revisit that legislation if the crisis continues to worsen, and to compel lenders to restructure loans with borrowers who have a good chance of remaining in their homes and agree to act in good faith.

Where do you stand on the proposed constitutional 'Clean Water, Land and Legacy Amendment' that would raise state taxes by $276 million annually for 25 years to fund clean water projects, wildlife, hunting, fishing, parks and arts and cultural projects? How do you think your fellow citizens should vote on the amendment and do you believe the constitutional amendment before the voters is the proper method on initiating such funding?

While I have reservations about using Minnesota's State Constitution as a budgeting tool, I do support allowing voters to have a choice about how to protect the rich outdoor heritage that is an important part of the legacy we'll leave for our children and grandchildren. However, I would never presume to tell my fellow citizens how they should vote.