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Minnesota 2nd Congressional District candidate: Paula Overby

Name: Paula Overby

Party: Independence Party of America

Age: 62

City: Eagan

Occupation: Quality assurance analyst

Education: Bachelor’s degree in computer science and psychology from University of Minnesota

Family: Three children, Jamie, Tyler and Courtney.

Civic involvement: Activism in LGBT community, mental health counselor, advocate against sexual violence.

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: When your health care premium is more than your tax bill, as is the case with some people, you have to realize that there is something seriously wrong with the way we deliver health care in this country. I would support a vote to abolish the ACA, even though it has ensured that we now have the smallest percentage of Americans not covered by health care in our recent history. I support localized health care delivery based on a single-payer health care model. In Congressional District 2, we already have an excellent model of localized health care delivery known as county based purchasing. County based purchasing provides targeted solutions, better mental health services and local employment. When you call your insurance company, wouldn’t you rather know you are talking to someone in your community? Federal legislation would better serve local health care delivery by reducing some of the regulatory requirements and creating transparency in health care and drug pricing to enhance consumer protections and choice.

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: Congress has given us programs like the “Every Student Succeeds Act” which is essentially a stripped down version of “No Child Left Behind” which most people agree was a failure. It involves political posturing and largely remains an unfunded federal mandate. It does nothing to address the underlying social causes of underachievement and does not provide a meaningful definition of success. It is heavily biased toward an unfounded perception that science, technology, engineering and math define the basis of educational success. Wouldn’t it be great if classrooms encouraged more critical thinking in all fields, not just science and technology? I generally oppose these federal mandates as excessively burdensome on local school districts. The federal government should be examining the socioeconomic factors that actually correlate with highly successful students and work to decrease the disparity between high and low achievement.

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 support a greater emphasis on developing renewable energy and improving energy conservation. There are many initiatives already underway at federal, state and local levels. I do think that the federal government could assume a much larger role in expediting the transition from fossil fuels and minimizing the impact of employment reductions that are already occurring in that industry.

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: Social Security represents about 35 percent of the total federal budget but that is misleading — even deceptive — because it is funded by FICA, which is a separate payroll tax. In fact, the Social Security and Disability trust funds currently have a positive balance and are in no way contributing to the federal deficit. According to a recent Pew Research Study, “Social Security’s combined reserves likely will be fully depleted by 2034, according to the trustees’ intermediate forecast. The disability-insurance trust fund could run dry as soon as the end of 2016, while the old-age and survivors’ fund is expected to be depleted in 2035 — assuming it’s not tapped to backfill the disability fund. (The Congressional Budget Office, in a separate report that uses somewhat different demographic assumptions, projects that the disability fund will be exhausted in fiscal 2017 and the old-age and survivors’ fund in calendar 2031; if the funds are combined, they would be exhausted in calendar 2029.) The exact depletion dates depend, of course, on future demographic and economic trends. After the reserves are exhausted, the system still will be receiving tax revenue, but it will only be enough to pay about three-quarters of scheduled benefits — unless Congress changes the benefit formulas, raises the payroll tax, or makes other changes such as raising the cap on taxable wage income (currently $118,500).” I support reducing military spending to a reasonable level, transferring money from the general fund to accommodate the current retirement bubble along with an increasing income cap on FICA. Congress needs to resolve this issue and stop using it to polarize voter opinion.

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

A: Let’s start by defining the problem. The infrastructure of American transportation is in a serious deficiency situation, as almost all national studies have pointed out, and this can only be remedied by the use of federal funds to complement state and local funds. One quarter of our bridges have serious problems, only one instance of which was the collapse of the Interstate 35 Bridge into the Mississippi in our own state of Minnesota. States pay about two-thirds of surface transportation costs, and they need both federal assistance — but also they need to have more flexibility in the way that they spend those funds. One special need that is relevant to our Second Congressional District is that rural roads need more attention.

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