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Hagedorn sees need to limit government overreach

NEW ULM — U.S. Rep. Jim Hagedorn, R-Minn., says people need to get back to work.

While visiting multiple businesses and organizations in New Ulm on Monday, he stressed the number one issue was not being able to find labor. He said it was not even a demand for a skilled workforce, but simply a workforce. Many workers have not returned to work after the COVID pandemic.

“Some of it is because in the state of Minnesota we had lockdowns too long,” he said. “Some ended up with some extra child care and other issues that made it tougher to return to the workforce.”

On the federal level, Hagedorn said the problem was unemployment compensation. He said people are making more off unemployment benefits than businesses can provide.

“We need to get back to a point where if people are offered work and don’t take it, they lose their unemployment benefits,” Hagedorn said.

Hagedorn claimed businesses are paying $6 over minimum wage, but still cannot compete with government benefits making it difficult to attract labor.

“It has very little to do with coronavirus and a lot to do with bad government policy that has things a little out of whack,” he said.

Hagedorn said people should have support getting through the COVID pandemic. He supported the Paycheck Protection Programs (PPP) and support for people who lost their jobs because of the pandemic. Hagedorn said the problem was when people were doing better not working than working.

“We need to get the incentive back for people to return to the workforce,” he said. Hagedorn wanted governors across the country to take away unemployment compensation from those who decline options to work. He wanted the same for those collecting welfare benefits.

“If they are able-bodied, they should work for those benefits,” he said.

Hagedorn said he supported Transition Wages. These allowed the state and federal government to transition from unemployment to employment without necessarily losing benefits.

Hagedorn was also pushing the American Workforce Empowerment Act. This plan would allow tax-preferred college savings plans to fund certain postsecondary certificate programs and apprenticeship programs. Under this plan, these accounts would be available to a student whether they wanted to attend a four-year college, a technical training institute, or purchase tools for an apprenticeship program. Hagedorn introduced the program in 2019 and is receiving more support for the bill this time.

“I think this time we might have more luck because this workforce issue is taking root across the board,” he said.

The PPP Flexibility for Farmers and Ranchers Act is another bill Hagedorn is sponsoring. The act would allow all agriculture producers in organizations and partnerships to access full PPP. Hagedorn explained the first PPP act helped farmers, but farmers in partnerships could not get the full fund. This enables partnerships to use gross income instead of net income to get them the full funds. Hagedorn is optimistic this will pass as there is no opposition to it. The bill is seen as an oversight fix.

Infrastructure was another top issue in congress. Hagedorn said he supports infrastructure as defined by roads, bridges, locks, dams, rail and pipeline.

“We are all happy we could all partner together and complete Highway 14,” he said. Hagedorn believed improving the roads and bridges was a safety and economic issue. “I think a lot of that will help New Ulm.”

Hagedorn supported infrastructure for roads and bridges but was against Green New Deal environmental policies. He believed it was moving the country away from energy independence and making the U.S. dependent on China for materials.

Hagedorn had concerns the infrastructure bill proposed by President Joe Biden would raise taxes too much and he did not think the American people had the stomach for it after major spending bills related to the COVID pandemic.

Hagedorn supports beginning to reopen Minnesota and wants Gov. Tim Walz to give up his emergency powers and work with legislators to open the state. He did not want to be beholden to one person’s opinion.

On the COVID vaccine efforts, Hagedorn encouraged people to talk with their physicians on whether the COVID vaccine was right for them. Hagedorn had the Pfizer vaccine on advice from his doctors. Two years ago, Hagedorn was diagnosed with advanced kidney cancer. He has received treatment at the Mayo Clinic and in December 2020, his kidney was removed. Doctors advised he take the vaccine as contracting COVID after this surgery was risky.

He was against politicians forcing or browbeating people into getting the vaccine.

“I think the American people are smart enough to make their own decisions,” he said. “This is still a free country.”

Recently the 2020 Census data was released and Minnesota will maintain its current number of congressional seats. Some redistricting will occur, but it is too soon to know how the districts will change. Hagedorn said is hoping for a fair process in redistricting. He was uncertain if the Democratic House and the Republican Senate would see eye-to-eye on the map. The decision could ultimately be made by the courts.

Hagedorn had no prediction for how districts would change but said he felt fortunate to represent Minnesota’s First as it currently stands.

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