State Rep. Phil Krinkie is hoping his first state budget as House Taxes Committee chairman will be his last.
To put it mildly, Krinkie, R-Lino Lakes, is disappointed with the two-year budget that was approved in July, including the 75-cent-a-pack cigarette fee that it contained. But that’s not the reason Krinkie is planning for a change of scenery come winter 2007.
Krinkie is vying for the open seat in the 6th Congressional District that will be vacated by Republican incumbent Mark Kennedy, who is running for U.S. Senate.
In a telephone interview with the Legal Ledger last week, the eight-term legislator and business owner said he started seriously thinking about a bid for Congress when rumors began to swirl last winter that Kennedy would seek the Senate seat currently held by Democratic incumbent Mark Dayton, who has chosen not to seek re-election.
Krinkie said he didn’t have much time to philosophize about running, given that state Sen. Michele Bachmann, R-Stillwater, and former state Education Commissioner Cheri Pierson Yecke, a Republican, had already started campaigning.
“It was either jump in or be left behind,” Krinkie said.
Another legislator, state Rep. Jim Knoblach, R-St. Cloud, also announced a congressional bid as did St. Cloud businessman and Republican Jay Esmay.
Former Transportation Commissioner Elwyn Tinklenberg announced in June that he’s running for the 6th District as a Democrat.
The pressures of the legislative session cramped Krinkie’s opportunities to campaign initially. Further complicating things was Krinkie’s decision to move across the Ramsey-Anoka county line in April so he can actually live in the 6th District.
Krinkie noted that congressional districts, unlike state legislative districts, don’t need to be inhabited by their representatives. But Krinkie said he felt it best to make the move and avoid “the slings and arrows of my opponents.”
And then there was the legislative session itself. Lawmakers went into overtime and caused a partial state government shutdown before agreeing on a budget in July. As chairman of the Taxes Committee during the regular session and the House leader on the tax working group during much of the special session, Krinkie was heavily involved in the high stakes budget wrangling.
With the session over, Krinkie is now getting out and meeting people in the 6th District.
Meanwhile, Krinkie is busy as a husband, parent and owner of the Snelling Co. heating and air-conditioning company. Over the years, he has gained some exposure to congressional campaigns by serving as a 4th District Republican chairman and helping former Republican state legislator Linda Runbeck on her 1998 congressional campaign.
Based on recent filings with the Federal Election Commission, Krinkie appears to be competitive in raising money to support his campaign. He received the most money among Republican 6th District candidates with $72,577 in contributions for the period ending June 30. He reported $114,123 in cash on hand.
“Anyone who has run for Congress or the U.S. Senate has spent an inordinate time raising money,” Krinkie said.
Krinkie was cheered last week when he received the endorsement of the Club for Growth, a political action committee in Washington, D.C., that supports tax cuts and limited government.
“For them to recognize me early, we feel it’s a real coup for getting conservative support,” Krinkie said.
Krinkie’s staunch fiscal conservative views led him to oppose some of the ideas proposed by Republican Gov. Tim Pawlenty during this year’s budget negotiations. In particular, he opposed obtaining revenue from a state operated casino and the Health Impact Fee on cigarettes, which Krinkie viewed as a tax.
Those differences came to a head in July when he quit the working group.
“It seemed that it was quite clear that there was a concern about how was I going to negotiate it when I didn’t support it,” Krinkie said.
And as for the final budget deal: “Disappointment? Absolutely. But you have to move on,” said Krinkie, who hopes to continue as Taxes chairman next session.
Since the session ended, Krinkie has attended parades and other events with fellow Republican legislators in the 6th District. He also manned the Republican booth at the Sherburne County Fair.
The presence of Bachmann in the race will likely serve as a catalyst for debate on social issues. Bachmann is a social conservative who has fought unsuccessfully in the last couple of sessions to pass a bill that would put the issue of same sex marriage on the ballot. Krinkie is not as closely identified with social issues as Bachmann. But he notes that he supports the social conservative agenda on issues such as abortion and gay marriage. The anti-abortion group Minnesota Citizens Concerned for Life finds that Krinkie supported its position 100 percent of the time in 2004.
Krinkie acknowledged the popularity of social issues among legislators and said he finds himself in more select company in dealing with public finance matters.
“In my tenure in the Legislature, I’ve found there’s a plethora of people working on those issues and only a few people who are budget hawks,” Krinkie said.
Krinkie notes the economic growth is an important issue for the 6th District, which stretches from Washington County along the St. Croix River to the St. Cloud area in central Minnesota.
“When you get down to what the folks are going to be asking, I think (it’s) transportation, education and economic growth,” Krinkie said.
On a broader level, he said national security and free trade are important issues that concern residents of the 6th District.
Krinkie has his sights on obtaining the Republican Party’s endorsement at its nominating convention next spring. If he fails to get the party’s nod, he said, he will have to assess whether he wants to seek re-election to the state House.