By Howard Lestrud
ECM Poltical Editor
A former chairman of the House commerce and taxes committees, Rep. Greg Davids, R-Preston, finds himself in the minority this session and said he much prefers being in the majority.
“Nobody seeks to get elected into the minority,” said the 11-term southeastern Minnesota legislator. He represents all of Fillmore and Houston counties, which include 39,000 constituents.
Davids is grounded with his experience in the Minnesota Legislature and also with his strong faith. A Bible rests on the corner of his desk in a prominent position. He just returned from a one-week Christian pilgrimage of seven community churches to Turkey.
It is not unusual to call Rep. Davids’ office and to have him answer the phone. It might even be between 10 p.m. and midnight. Davids likely is working on bill preparation, or he is processing every one of the thousands of constituent surveys he receives after publishing them in local newspapers.
Davids is rather outspoken about having a job “in real life” and not just being a legislator. Davids, a former public school teacher in the social studies area, now works in financial planning at his full-line agency. He handles 401-K investments, rollovers and other finance matters. Davids also owns a 160-acre family farm.
“I think it is important not to give up a real job,” Davids said. Without a job other than legislator, the lawmaker has no connection with reality, Davids explained.
Davids said he feels fortunate to be able to listen to people and have contact with them on both paths of life. Davids said he believes people know what’s best. Government should take care of things the people can’t do themselves, for example, roads, sewage plants and other matters, he said.
Davids has been in the middle of debates on taxes the past few years as chairman of the House Taxes Committee. He is the Republican lead on the House Taxes Committee this session. He said he is proud of being part of past legislative action responsible for recovery of the state budget.
During the last campaign, Davids said the Democrats “pounded on us” about paying back the school shift and now with two and half months gone in the session, the Democrats are talking social issues rather than paying back the shift. Davids calls that hypocrisy.
Davids gives Gov. Mark Dayton credit for dropping his aggressive sales tax plans but says he is still opposed to the governor’s plan to levy more taxes on the upper 2 percent of wage earners. “He wants to tax success,” Davids said. Davids predicts that the governor’s tax plan will be more reaching than that and it will touch those making under $100,000.
He mentioned school teachers and firefighters possibly being affected by a Dayton tax plan. “I don’t consider these people rich; it becomes very problematic,” Davids said. He said he believed it is unlikely that the governor will levy more tax on alcohol and said Dayton is also now becoming more squeamish about placing higher taxes on cigarettes.
“The Democrats have complete control of this place and there is no balance,” Davids said. “They should make a movie and call it ‘Taxes Gone Wild.’” He firmly believes that every Minnesotan will pay more in taxes.
Davids said the Democrats want a bigger government and pay too little attention to government efficiencies. Davids said the Republicans, while controlling the House and Senate the past two years, put more money into education, especially rural schools. He said he saw $600 more per pupil unit being added to the base in his area, which includes the Mabel-Canton, Spring Grove and Lanesboro public schools.
He attributes lack of balance in government to the Democrats. Davids said they will continue to give windfalls to “their union buddies.” He said education and nursing homes will do well this session. He calls their control abusive and over reaching.
Will there be a bonding bill? Davids knows the governor wants one but says he believes it is unlikely. Davids agrees with Senate Majority Leader Tom Bakk, DFL-Cook, who says this is not a bonding year. “We should only do bonding if it pertains to disasters like flooding and tornadoes,” Davids said.
Even in the minority this 88th Legislative Session, Davids has authored nine pieces of legislation. In total, Davids has joined authorship of 72 bills. He is chief author on a bill providing funding for the Chatfield Center for the Arts in southern Minnesota. Some of his other legislation pertains to:
• Public pension insurance surcharge imposed, pension aids modified and pension funding provided
• Unmanned aircraft regulated, criminal penalties created and civil actions authorized
• Lanesboro Dam funding
• American Taxpayer Relief Act income tax provisions affecting computation of standard deduction conformed
• Camping site tax authorization expanded to include private campgrounds
• Internal Revenue Code changes conformed to, and working family credit phase out for married filers extended
• Lottery ticket sale prohibited at fuel pumps
• Income, franchise and property tax refund provisions for the tax year 2012 conformed to Federal Aviation Administration Modernization and Reform Act of 2012 and the American Taxpayer Relief Act of 2012
“I’m here to work and because you’re in the minority, that doesn’t mean you can’t be effective,” Davids said. “Why did you let me get so many bills introduced,” Davids joked with his legislative assistant Kelly Hansen. “You do it when I’m not looking,” she responded.
Davids said he loves serving southeastern Minnesota. He had his service interrupted in 2006 when he was defeated by 45 votes. He was re-elected in 2010 and 2012. He and his wife Bonnie have three children and two grandchildren.
Asked to define his legislative style, Davids said he believes in being upfront with people, not playing games but telling the truth. “Honesty is so important,” he said. “If your word is not good, you might as well go home,” he added.
As a veteran lawmaker, Davids said he can be more effective because he knows how the place works. “In my 21 years of committee chairmanship, I always took DFL bills first and it’s nice to see some Democrats carrying on that tradition,” Davids said.
“I run to serve my people and look at myself as a hired hand to be a servant of them,” Davids concluded.
Howard Lestrud can be reached at [email protected]