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Minnesota 2nd Congressional District candidate: Angie Craig

Name: Angie Craig

Party: Democratic-Farmer-Labour

Age: 44

City: Eagan

Occupation: Executive at St. Jude’s Medical

Education: Bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Memphis

Family: Wife, Cheryl; four children, Josh, Jonas, Jacob and Isaac.

Civic involvement: Eagan Rotary, Open Arms of Minnesota, former Senate District 51 DFL Precinct Chair.

Q: Health care costs have increased under the Affordable Care Act, and it remains unpopular with many Americans. Would you vote to abolish the Act? Barring that, are there specific reforms you would support?

A: Having grown up without health insurance coverage, I recognize how critically important access to care is for all hardworking families. And we’ve seen expanded access in recent years: in Minnesota we’ve hit an all-time low with roughly four percent of our population left uninsured. Now we need to focus on cost control. The current health care debate helps illustrate precisely what is wrong with the way Washington does business. While Republicans have taken over 65 votes to repeal, Democrats have not moved quickly enough to address affordability. We need to take the politics out of health care and focus on real solutions like ways to promote and encourage high-value care. According to some studies, if spending for chronically ill patients everywhere in the country mirrored the efficient level of spending in the Mayo Clinic’s region, Medicare could save $50 billion in taxpayer money over five years. Let’s lend some Minnesota commonsense to the national discussion by focusing more on value and less on volume.

Q: What role should the federal government play in ensuring that U.S. graduates can compete in the global economy? Are there specific measures that you advocate?

A: One of the biggest issues facing families in our district is the burdensome cost of higher education. Seventy percent of Minnesota’s college graduates have taken on some form of debt in order to complete their education, with the average price tag amounting to $31,579. That kind of debt causes our young people to delay major milestones, like buying a home or starting a family. Not only is it bad for our graduates — it’s bad for the economy.

In order to stay competitive in the global economy, we must do better to make college more affordable and expand access to higher education. One way we can do this is by strengthening Pell Grants. If Pell Grants were indexed to keep up with the rising cost of college, 9.2 million students would see an increase of $1,300. We also must allow students to refinance their debt at lower interest rates.

The private sector should be part of the solution too. By making student loan payments part of a benefits package, companies aren’t just helping their recruiting and retention efforts — they’re helping grow the economy. Congress can help more companies do right by their employees by incentivizing student loan reimbursement with a business tax credit.

We need to take a closer look at why students are defaulting on their loans. While the problem hardly exists in other countries, seven million borrowers in the United States are in default. In our country, the typical repayment period is just 10 years. However, in countries where the life of the loan is longer, students are far less likely to default on loans. Instead, they can begin building a life and contributing to the economy early in their careers. A core tenant of finance is that the length of debt payments should align with the life of the asset — student loans shouldn’t be an exception to that rule.

Q: Do you support current restrictions on domestic oil and natural gas production, or would you like to see them reduced or increased?

A: I believe that we can become energy independent while protecting our climate. Minnesota has been a leader in this industry and it’s helping us build the future of our economy. I’ve met dozens of farmers throughout this campaign. Nothing gives me more hope that we can craft an environmentally-friendly solution to our energy challenges than spending time with those that are growing the fuels of tomorrow on farms that are helping set the energy agenda of the future. Minnesota was the first state in the nation to require gasoline to be blended with 10 percent ethanol, and we’re a national leader in the use of E-85. Our state offers incentives to build advanced biofuels and biomass thermal energy plants. And our 21 ethanol plants and three biodiesel plants generate an estimated $5 billion in economic output. We need to chart a new, ‘all of the above’ energy future — one that creates jobs, increases energy independence while keeping costs affordable for middle-class families, and responds to the challenges of global climate change.

Q: What specific steps can be taken to keep programs such as Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid solvent and still serve those individuals in need?

A: We need to do everything we can to serve and support seniors and others in need — that includes protecting Social Security, and strengthening Medicare and Medicaid. Currently the Social Security Trust Fund has a $2.3 trillion surplus that can pay the benefits owed for the next 19 years. We have some time to figure it out, and if we work together, we can find a solution. To assess our options, the executive branch and Congress need to create a bipartisan commission, just like President Reagan did in 1983. Another step is to reconsider the cap on taxable income. Billionaires pay the same amount into Social Security as someone who makes $118,500 a year. But just raising the cap above $118,500 a year would likely result in a tax increase for many hardworking middle class families. We need to strike a balance and make sure to exempt any family making just over that amount and implement the increase for only the highest wage earners.

Q: What role should the federal government play in funding state and local transportation infrastructure? Be specific.

A: Minnesotans know all too well how vital federal infrastructure funding is. After the Interstate 35 bridge collapsed we invested in transportation to ensure the safety of all Minnesotans. In Minnesota alone, inspectors have declared 71 bridges in “poor” condition, with another dozen suffering from “serious” problems. These numbers highlight the need to secure funding in the long term.

Last December the President signed the bipartisan-supported FAST Act into law to provide local governments the funding they need to move forward on critical transportation projects. This is the first long-term transportation bill in a decade. In addition to providing Minnesota with more than $4 billion is federal transportation funding over five years, it will make our transportation systems safer for travel while boosting economic development by creating jobs, and enhancing our ability to transport goods.

I believe that the federal government’s role is to provide predictability and stability for the local leaders tasked with carrying out complex transportation infrastructure projects.