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Hagedorn praises jobs report, Trump acquittal

NEW ULM — First Minnesota District GOP Congressman Jim Hagedorn held a town hall at the New Ulm Community Center, Saturday.

The congressman began with an overview of recent actions in the House of Representatives before taking questions.

Hagedorn said the last week had been good from his perspective. He praised the recent jobs report that shows an increase in jobs and higher salaries.

“Most of the business people I talk with, the only problem they have is finding skilled workers,” he said. “That’s a pretty good problem to have.”

He said the killing of an al Qaeda terrorist leader in Yemen was a good thing for the country and the world. Then he praised the acquittal of President Donald Trump.

“I did not support impeachment,” he said. “I think it was overly political.”

Hagedorn wanted to pivot away from the divisive issue of impeachment and work on areas of bipartisan agreement. He cited transportation and prescription drugs as areas of bipartisan support. He believes border security should be bipartisan.

He said “every president in the history of this country, if they have asked for help on the border to protect our country, has received that help. Not this president, unfortunately.”

The completion of Highway 14 was highlighted by Hagedorn as the top transportation issue in the district. The expansion of the highway to four lanes is nearing completion.

Last year the Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT) submitted a grant application for $25 million from the federal government to fund the road, but it was not accepted.

“I don’t know one in all of Minnesota who isn’t for completing this last stretch of Highway 14,” he said. “We’re all on the same team.”

Hagedorn said he recently visited with Gov. Tim Walz in Washington and was able to work with his former DFL challenger. He said Walz and MnDOT will ask for federal funds again, this time for $40 million or $50 million.

Hagedorn said the road project will cost $90 million, meaning even with federal funding some state funding would be needed to complete Highway 14. He pledged to meet with Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao and every last person he knew in the administration and make it clear to the leadership in the Republican Party the application by MnDOT needs to be approved. Hagedorn said in needed to be approved for safety but also the economy.

Rising optimism among farmers

Hagedorn said optimism amongst farmers was on the rise. After attending the Minnesota Ag Expo in Mankato he said farmers were excited about the current trade deals and the president fixing the ethanol program.

Hagedorn is pushing for the United States Mexico Canada America (USMCA) trade deal because 48% of trade in Minnesota goes to either Canada or Mexico. The trade deal is expected to remove barriers between the nations.

Hagedorn is against dropping the trade tariffs on China. He believes the tariffs give the United States leverage in discussing China’s stealing of intellectual property and the manipulation of currency.

“We have to hold onto these tariffs to make sure China follows through,” he said.

Hagedorn was hopeful about other trade deals with Britain. He described Britain’s recent decision to leaven the European Union as a good day for freedom.

The congressman warned about African swine fever. He said the disease wiped half of China’s hog population, which represents a quarter of the world’s hog population. Hagedorn said this could be an opportunity for American hog farmers to export all over the world to fill in the gap, but the United States needs to protect against the disease spreading domestically. This includes enhancing inspections at ports of entry.

Questions and answers

Hagedorn took questions from the audience. Questions were written in advance on note cards and randomly drawn from a bowl.

The first question was about a bill regarding boys’ and girls’ high school sports. Hagedorn said he believed only biological girls should compete against biological girls in sports. Along with Florida Congressmen Greg Steube he co-authored a bill that would restrict transgender women from competing in women’s sports and transgender men from competing in men’s sports.

The next question came from Brown County Republican Chairperson Greg Bartz. His question was about the importance of the USMCA trade deal and when Canada would ratify it.

Hagedorn said Canada should ratify it within the next few weeks. The USMCA deal is based on the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and would update the trade deal. Hagedorn said it was important for the United States farmers, who overproduce and need to sell to other countries.

“We want to keep every last farmer in business,” he said, “This is a going to be a good way to naturally do it and to grow businesses and expand operations.”

Brown County Housing Coordinator Heather Bregel asked about child care regulations. Hagedorn previously stated he would eliminate onerous regulations. Bregel’s question was which regulations would be eliminated.

Hagedorn said at the federal level he co-authored a bill that said a nonprofit starting a child care operation could receive start-up capital from the Small Business Administration. He suggested changes to the tax code and letting people use pre-tax federal dollars. Hagedorn said the big changes to increased access to child care needed to happen in Minnesota.

Hagedorn believes regulations were the greatest obstacle. He admitted not knowing every regulation in Minnesota but said it was over 400 pages thick and was a deterrent for child care startups.

Hagedorn asked State Rep. Paul Torkelson, R-Hanska, for input. Torkelson agreed there was a decrease in child care services and people talking with him said the regulations were too challenging for them to continue. He said communities were working to bring resources together to bring facilities, but they wanted to ensure in-home day cares could grow.

Hagedorn then asked Torkelson to speak on Highway 14 efforts. Torkelson repeated the MnDOT plan to submit for a federal grant. He said the project is ready to go, but the funding was needed. Torkelson said there was likely to be a bonding bill that could include transportation money.

Hagedorn began talking about other transportation issues across the district but was interrupted by a member of the audience who wanted an answer to the child care regulation question.

Hagedorn repeated that needed to be determined by the state Legislature and he could not be expected to know all Minnesota child care regulations.

He then proceeded to talk about transportation again. A few constituents asked what this had to do with child care. The concern was Hagedorn had only read three questions from the audience and had used a question on child care to talk about transportation again.

Hagedorn did encourage people to speak to the governor and Torkelson to streamline child care regulations.

Asked about the most concerning legislation coming from DFL sources, Hagedorn said he would always vote against gun control.

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